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Islanders' Tavares gained familiarity with St. Louis

by Brian Compton

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- New York Islanders captain John Tavares spent Thursday morning preparing for a game against the Calgary Flames later that night at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, so he had no idea that Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis had been selected to replace Steven Stamkos on Canada's roster at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Stamkos, who sustained a broken tibia in a game against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11, did everything he could to work his way back into Tampa Bay's lineup before the Olympics so he could represent Canada at the Olympics. But it was announced Wednesday that Stamkos has not been medically cleared to play.

St. Louis, who leads the Lightning with 54 points (25 goals, 29 assists) in 56 games, was originally left off the roster when it was announced by Hockey Canada last month. The 38-year-old and Tavares, 23, were roommates at Canada's orientation camp last summer.

"It's great for Marty and well deserved," Tavares said after being informed of the news by a reporter. "He's a tremendous person and I think he's proven throughout his career what he's accomplished and the impact he can make on a team like that and a tournament like this.

"[He's] just a great guy. I think he doesn't take anything for granted. He's worked for everything he's got. I think he's always had that kind of mindset. He's a lot of fun to be around too. He's not this old guy, grumpy guy. He's fun and energetic and extremely hard-working."

Stamkos was the No. 1 pick at the NHL Draft one year before the Islanders took Tavares with the first pick in 2009. Tavares said he feels badly for Stamkos, who had 14 goals in 17 games for the Lightning this season before the injury.

"I know Steve pretty well. I played a little bit of hockey [with him] growing up together and a little bit against each other," Tavares said. "[He's a] good friend. It's tough to see him work so hard and have a freakish injury like that get in the way from living a great opportunity, a dream come true for a lot of us, and you never know if you're ever gonna get this chance again.

"I remember seeing him here about a month ago and he was really optimistic, really upbeat. I'm sure he's extremely disappointed. I feel for him, for sure."


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