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At the Rink blog

Vanek growing comfortable with Islanders

Friday, 11.01.2013 / 3:02 PM

By Sean Farrell - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Vanek growing comfortable with Islanders

OTTAWA -- With Thomas Vanek's first game with the New York Islanders under his belt, he is feeling more and more at home with his new team.

Vanek will line up with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo again Friday against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.

Acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, Vanek did not have a point in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday in his Islanders debut.

"I've got a wife and three kids, so anytime you throw that in the equation it makes it a little bit harder, but I think this team is really close and they've taken me in and they're making each day more and more comfortable for me," said Vanek, who will play his 600th regular-season game Friday.

While Vanek is adapting to playing with one of the NHL's elite young centers, Tavares is adjusting to losing the chemistry he formed with left wing Matt Moulson, who was traded to Buffalo along with New York's first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2015.

Tavares had dinner at Moulson's Long Island home when his former linemate was back in New York for Buffalo's game against the New York Rangers on Thursday.

"I think both guys will tell you that friends are for life and it's a business," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "I think Johnny realizes that, Matt realizes that, Thomas realizes that, so I think for Matt and Thomas probably the toughest thing is they're both family guys with young kids and emotionally it's tough. Johnny's going to play the way Johnny plays. He works extremely hard and doesn't change his game a whole lot and that's why he's been really successful."

Tavares made the point that he has played with many different linemates, including for Canada at the World Championship.

"You just want to go out there and play your game, trust your linemates, trust your teammates and believe in what you can do so I don't think I'm going to be too worried about it. Obviously he was a guy I enjoyed playing with and I have to move on from it," Tavares said.

Capuano said he will go with the same lineup that faced the Rangers on Tuesday. Ottawa coach Paul MacLean has moved his players around like a sliding tile puzzle in coming up with new line combinations and defense pairings for Friday.

Senators captain Jason Spezza will have Chris Neil on his right side and Cory Conacher on his left. Neil usually plays on an energy line with Zack Smith, who joked that centering a line with Milan Michalek and Mika Zibanejad has brought him the most media attention he's had in the past couple of years.

"The lines, they can change after the first period so I haven't re-evaluated my career just because of that," Smith said. "I know my role on the team. It's a good opportunity for me, for however long it is, a period or a few games, but I'm looking forward to it. I've been around long enough to know not to read too much into it, but I'm looking forward to it anyways."

Veteran defenseman Chris Phillips will be paired with Erik Karlsson, and Marc Methot will shift from the left side to the right to play with Patrick Wiercioch. Phillips said he has to approach playing with the 2012 Norris Trophy winner with the mindset that he might get the puck at any moment.

"He's a skilled guy that can make a lot of plays that you just don't expect from the majority of the guys in the game so you sort of have to be expecting the unexpected a little bit," Phillips said. "My role is obviously to be there and be an option for him as much as I can and at the same time not for me to be the guy up the ice but backing him up and letting him do his thing."

The Senators will be looking to end a three-game losing streak which followed their best effort to date, a 6-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 23. Ottawa went 4-6-2 in October, a month that began with six straight road games, including four out west, and ended with a 6-5 loss to the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

"It was a tough month for us but at the same time now we've seen a lot of good teams and we know what to expect," Karlsson said. "If we want to compete that's how good we're going to have to be going forward."

Here are the probable lineups for the Islanders and Senators:

ISLANDERS

Thomas Vanek - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey

Michael Grabner - Peter Regin - Cal Clutterbuck

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Brock Nelson

Andrew MacDonaldTravis Hamonic

Matt Donovan - Radek Martinek

Thomas Hickey - Matt Carkner

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: Colin McDonald, Eric Boulton

Injured: Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion), Brian Strait (upper body)

SENATORS

Cory Conacher - Jason Spezza - Chris Neil

Clarke MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan

Milan Michalek - Zack Smith - Mika Zibanejad

Colin Greening - Derek Grant - Erik Condra

Chris Phillips- Erik Karlsson

Patrick Wiercioch - Marc Methot

Jared Cowen - Eric Gryba

Robin Lehner

Craig Anderson

Scratched: Joe Corvo, Matt Kassian

Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure