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TAVARES ANTICIPATING A GREAT SEASON

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
In just five days, the Islanders will celebrate the beginning of a new hockey season when they faceoff against the Dallas Stars at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Opening Night is definitely exciting for dedicated hockey fans who have been looking forward to this season since the last one ended, but this night is also extremely important to the players on the ice.


“We are glad the preseason is over. With the exception of the two injuries to Kyle and Mark, we are relatively healthy,” said Islanders head coach Scott Gordon. “I think the guys are looking forward to playing a real game now.  There was a lot of training over the course of the summer. The anticipation of playing the first game is something that you wait all summer for, and why you do all the training.”

Here on Long Island, Islanders forward John Tavares is full of excitement. He compared his impatience to the feeling of counting down the days until Christmas as a kid. He couldn’t be more thrilled that the first game is right around the corner.

Just the anticipation for it. The build up for it, I think every year it’s the same kind of feelings. I think I said this earlier during Training Camp, but the opening game is kind of like Christmas. The anticipation for it, there’s so much excitement and you train so hard for it all summer. When it finally gets here, there’s nothing like it. - John Tavares
“Just the anticipation for it,” Tavares said. “The build up for it, I think every year it’s the same kind of feelings. I think I said this earlier during Training Camp, but the opening game is kind of like Christmas. The anticipation for it, there’s so much excitement and you train so hard for it all summer. When it finally gets here, there’s nothing like it.”

Even though he’s extremely excited to get the 2010-11 hockey season started, he knows the next five days are going to be very intense practice days. As a rule, the league requires each team to trim their roster to 23 skaters by Wednesday at 6 p.m. Currently, Tavares is practicing on the top line with Blake Comeau and PA Parenteau.

While he doesn’t have anything to worry about, he said, “I think there’s still a few spots being battled for,” of the Islanders current 27-man roster. “(The rosters need to be set by) Wednesday so there’s definitely still some guys battling. It’s good though. It’s good to have it throughout practice this week to keep the intensity high. It’s great competition I think for everybody. It pushes everybody to another level.”

There may be a lot of guys feeling the competition at the moment, but the atmosphere inside the locker room and out on the ice was still a positive one. Everyone was working hard and skating their tails off.

“I think there’s real good energy in the room today,” Tavares said. “Everyone knows the season is starting up pretty soon and we’re pumped for it. There was a good tempo today out there on the ice and it’s nice to be out there with all the guys again.”

Despite injuries the Islanders have felt during the preseason, Tavares still has high hopes for the team this year, saying that this is an opportunity for many of the guys on the team to step up.

I just think we’re a little deeper in all areas. I think that the depth of our team is really going to show now, especially since a couple of our big guys are hurt. There are big holes that have to be filled and guys will have to step up. So I think our depth is really going to show this year and really help us out late in games and when it matters most, when we need those points to keep ourselves in contention (for the playoffs). - John Tavares
“I just think we’re a little deeper in all areas,” Tavares said. “I think that the depth of our team is really going to show now, especially since a couple of our big guys are hurt. There are big holes that have to be filled and guys will have to step up. So I think our depth is really going to show this year and really help us out late in games and when it matters most, when we need those points to keep ourselves in contention (for the playoffs).”

Before the Islanders get to playoffs, they have to open up the season strong, garnering some points early and continuing to play strong through 82 regular season games. But first, Tavares is taking it one game at a time and is looking forward to playing the Stars in the home opener on Saturday.

“There’s always that big excitement for the home opener as well, so Dallas will be a great challenge,” said Tavares. “They’ve got the same kind of team as us, they’ve got some really good players and they’ve gotten a little younger. It should be a fun game to watch and a fun game to play in.”

And what better way to keep up the excitement, before the energy from the first game wears off, than a little rivalry between the New York teams. On Monday, the Islanders will have their second game of the season, hosting the Rangers.

“It’s a great way to open up the season, open up the weekend,” Tavares said about playing the Stars on Saturday and the Rangers on Monday. “I think the Rangers games are always great… There’s nothing better than a Rangers-Islanders game so I’m looking forward to that one as well.”
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