The Captain was skating hard in circles from one end of the Iceworks rink to the other, racing repeatedly with the rest of the first unit around the two nets that had been pushed forward a bit, a grueling end to practice for all of the Islanders’ units following a bad game the night before that they still somehow won.
John Tavares had just one off-target shot in the 4-3 shootout victory at Philadelphia, giving the Isles an eight-game point streak (6-0-2). But their elite 25-year-old center has been figuratively skating hard in circles lately, putting in the effort without the results. So his coach met with him Wednesday morning.
“I told him, ‘You know what? Just keep playing the way that you’re playing,’ ” Jack Capuano said. “If he wasn’t getting the chances and he wasn’t in the right spots and he wasn’t working and he wasn’t practicing hard, it’d be different. To me, it’s just, you’re going to get through this.
“The guys are behind him, too. We’ve gotten some secondary scoring, too, which Johnny’s proud of. But he’s one of those guys that wants to contribute, and he will.”
He has contributed two power-play goals, no even-strength goals and no assists in the last seven games. Capuano says Tavares has “got to relax a little bit.”
“You can get frustrated, but you try to focus on the next shift,” Tavares said. “You can’t control what’s already happened. You just try to put your energy forward and focus on trying to contribute and build on some things.”
Tavares, coming off his best season with 38 goals and 48 assists, has 12 goals and 10 assists in his 26 games.
“I expect myself to play at a high level consistently,” Tavares said. “So definitely you put pressure on yourself.”
Linemate Kyle Okposo knows the payoff is coming.
“Obviously he’s one of best players in the league and of course it’s his job to produce offensively,” Okposo said. “Nobody’s trying harder than him. Nobody wants to get out of a little slump more than he does . . . He’s very strong mentally and no doubt he’ll break out of this.”
Notes & quotes: Capuano said fourth-line right wing Cal Clutterbuck is “day-to-day” with an upper-body injury suffered against the Flyers. Capuano wouldn’t commit yet to Steve Bernier replacing Clutterbuck if he can’t play Saturday night at Columbus.