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Flu-ridden Tavares sits this one out

by Brian Compton
TERRACE, B.C. -- Some may be disappointed  that John Tavares won't make his NHL debut at the Terrace Sportsplex on Monday night, but New York Islanders coach Scott Gordon wasn't left with much of a choice.

Tavares -- the No. 1 selection in the 2009 Entry Draft, has been battling the flu in recent days and didn't make the trip but should play in a game later this week.

"John was in bed on Friday sick, and we just thought we probably wouldn't want to make his first training camp any harder than it has to be," Gordon said Monday morning. "He did practice (on Sunday) which is good, and he's obviously feeling better."

Gordon was asked if Tavares -- who scored 215 goals during his junior career -- was originally penciled in to accompany the Isles to Terrace and lace up his skates on Monday night.

"I had thought about it … but that kind of solved the problem for me right away," Gordon said.

Nonetheless, Gordon remains highly impressed with the teenage sensation, who turns 19 this weekend. He believes Tavares has made strides since the team held its rookie camp in July.

"To me, he looks stronger than he did in rookie camp," Gordon said. "I think he just felt more comfortable. The ice was a little slow (because) the building was a little warm, but the effort was there."

Tavares is currently rooming with Doug Weight at the team's training camp in Saskatoon. The Islanders want the rookie forward to have a veteran to rely on both on and off the ice. So far, it appears to be a terrific match.

"Dougie's been around and he's a very personable guy," Gordon said of Weight. "We thought it would be good for (John) to be exposed to that and draw on his experiences." 

When he has been able to hit the ice, Tavares has wowed his new teammates with his skills around the net. It's the type of showcasing he hopes to put on display at the Nassau Coliseum beginning next month. The Isles open the regular season on Oct. 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"He's a pretty talented kid," forward Jeff Tambellini said. "We got to skate with him last week. His stuff from the blue line in is pretty impressive. We expect pretty big things out of him, and I'm sure he'll deliver."

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