NHL.com's weekly Q&A feature called "Five Questions With ..." runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features New York Islanders left wing Thomas Vanek:
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- New York Islanders left wing Thomas Vanek has a lot coming up in the months ahead, including the 2014 Sochi Olympics and his pending unrestricted free agency. The last thing he needed was to be struggling on the ice as the calendar flipped to 2014.
No worries there.
Vanek enters the game Tuesday at the Toronto Maple Leafs riding a nine-game point-scoring streak that dates back to Dec. 20. He has five goals and nine assists during the streak, including the two assists he had in New York's 7-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday.
Left Wing - NYI
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 36
SOG: 123 | +/-: 1
After sitting out with an injury in early November that marred his start with the Islanders, Vanek has found his game while skating on the team's top line with John Tavares
and Kyle Okposo
. The Vanek-Tavares-Okposo line is one of the best lines going in the NHL right now with a combined 72 points in the past 22 games.
Next month, Vanek will suit up for Austria in the Olympics. It's the first time Austria will play in the Olympics since 2002, so it's Vanek's first chance to represent his country in the world's biggest tournament.
Once he's back from the Olympics, Vanek will have a few more months to play under his current contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent.
Vanek talked to NHL.com about New York, his scoring streak, Tavares, the Olympics and his future prior to the game against the Stars at Nassau Coliseum.
Here are Five Questions With … Thomas Vanek:
Do you feel that you've reached a comfort level with the Islanders that you're finally satisfied with?
"I think so. Oh for sure. Not just on the ice, but around the ice. The first three weeks I was in a hotel and then you find a place, you've gotta get some furniture and get settled. It's all these little things that add up to be big. It's nice to feel comfortable, to call a place home, and it takes a while to get that. At the same time with these point streaks, I don't look into them too much because you could have a great game, three goals, and feel like nothing. Like the game in Boston [Dec. 31], I felt like literally [garbage], sick and stuff, and somehow I get two assists. I don't look into those things. But as far as comfort, I'm a lot more comfortable on the ice with Johnny and Kyle. I think we've created a good trio there, which is tough to find. Usually you have one good linemate and a third guy as a complement, but the three of us are getting to know each other well. Even though we have done a fair share of the scoring, I still think we could be better at finishing some of our chances."
You say fair share of scoring and obviously that is true. Does having to produce for a team that is struggling to find secondary scoring create pressure every time you're on the ice for this team and does it sometimes take away from other areas of your game?
"No, I don't think so. We're in a position to succeed. I don't think you look at it as pressure. If you don't want to play on a line like that, then I don't know what's wrong with you. To me, it's fun. It's fun to go out there and try to create, to get those chances. It's frustrating to not finish them, but on the positive side you're getting them. It would be more frustrating to have a line like this and not even get the chances. We're getting closer to where we want to be, but we need to do a better job of finishing and getting ahead of teams. I thought the other night against Carolina [on Saturday] we played good hockey, but right now we don't have that instinct to pull away from teams. We let them get two chances and then we're battling back from a two-goal deficit."
Can you compare Tavares to other centers you have played with? Is there even a comparison?
"Not that I've played with, and I've played with some good centers. I think John is as close to that [Sidney] Crosby category as you can get. There are some things he can still improve on like we all can, but he's creative, he battles, his work ethic. He's just the whole package. Sometimes in my eyes what he needs to realize is he's got a guy beat and then he wants to beat him again. Sometimes simple is more for him."
For you with the Olympics there is no debate, if you're healthy you're going to Sochi to play for Austria. Can you describe your mindset about the Olympics and even the process of getting there compared to that of say Tavares or Okposo?
"Well, it's different. I cheer for these guys. They want to be a part of something special because they can make something special. These teams have a legitimate chance of winning a medal, if not the gold. For me and [Michael] Grabner, it's exciting just to be part of the Olympics. And I think our country is excited. We obviously have our skiers and ski jumpers that do well, but for an actual team to go there, people are excited. But again, I'm not going there thinking we're going to win a medal. I watched qualification on the internet against Germany when we made it and that alone felt like a medal. But it will be fun. I don't think we're horrible. I don't think we can compete with Canada or Finland, but again, you go in there with a good attitude, have fun with it and see what comes out of it. Hey, it could be worse."
Your contract situation is going to become a topic of conversation, if it isn't already. What do you think about it, what is the thought process and how do you plan to handle the business side of this equation?
"Well, I'm not ignorant about it. I know the scenario and what could happen for me. But my thought process is I do like it here. This team to me is really a team. I think the potential is a lot more than we've shown. We've shown we can play with the best teams. I thought the other night against Chicago [Jan. 2], in my eyes the best team, I thought we played a great game. It's about carrying that over and getting that secondary scoring to put a good push together here over the next 15 or so games, however many we have before the Olympics. Hopefully I can then stay here and finish off the year, but I do understand the business side of it. Am I worried if I get a phone call tomorrow about something? No, I'm really not. It's the business side of it. So be it. This business is what I signed up for. We're talking. I like it here. I do think there's a ways to go, but you never know."