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World Cup

World Cup splits Islanders coach, captain

Jack Capuano, John Tavares will be on opposing teams during tournament

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- New York Islanders captain John Tavares is about to enter his sixth training camp with Jack Capuano as his coach, but they're about to spend the next few weeks as opponents.

Tavares will head to Ottawa next week to begin practicing with Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey 2016, which will be played from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 in Toronto. Capuano will travel to Columbus to work with Team USA as an assistant to coach John Tortorella.

It will be a different atmosphere for Tavares, who helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The native of Mississauga, Ontario, who sustained a torn MCL and torn meniscus in his left knee during that tournament, said it will take some time for players to become acclimated with one another, especially with the World Cup being played before the NHL season begins Oct. 12.

Video: NYI@TBL, Gm1: Tavares goes top-shelf for PPG

"I'm glad it's not in the middle of July," Tavares said Monday after attending a memorial service for former Islanders coach Al Arbour. "But it's in the beginning of the season, because you're fresh, it helps you prepare for the start of the NHL season. But I think there's a special element, like playing in the Olympics when we do it in February. I think that's really when everybody's game is probably at its highest level just because of the rhythm and flow of being into the season and whatnot.

"There's going to be, at least for the first week of training camp next week, there's always that time of kind of kicking the rust off and kind of getting back into the swing of things so everybody is certainly healthy, ready to go, and we'll be amped up and excited."

Capuano, who has coached the Islanders to back-to-back 100-point seasons and last season to their first Stanley Cup Playoff series victory since 1993, admitted it will be a bit strange to coach against Tavares. Islanders forward Nikolay Kulemin (Team Russia) and goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss (Team Europe) also will compete at the World Cup.

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm6: Tavares wraps around for GWG to clinch

"It's competitive," said Capuano, a native of Cranston, Rhode Island. "Everybody likes to represent their country. I hope it's a great tournament, a safe tournament for all the players that are involved in it, but it'll be exciting. I know there's a lot of pride on the line. John's a tremendous player, along with our other players that'll be there as well. It'll be a good experience."

Assistant coaches Doug Weight and Greg Cronin will run Islanders training camp until Capuano returns from Team USA.

"I don't think it's going to affect it," Capuano said of missing the start of training camp. "We've got a quality staff, our assistant coaches. This is the first camp that I'm not going to be a part of since I've been coaching, so it's a little bit different. But I think the guys know exactly what our expectations are. Tavares and both goaltenders won't be a part of it, and Kulemin, but most of the guys will be here. I think it'll be a great camp. It's exciting to be back and be around our coaches again and I know they're excited to get things going. It's a good opportunity for myself too, to be a part of Team USA, and I'm looking forward to it."

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm4: Tavares goes top-shelf to tie the game

After the tournament, the focus shifts back to helping New York further evolve into a Stanley Cup contender. The Islanders ended their 23-year drought when they defeated the Florida Panthers in six games to win their Eastern Conference First Round series. However, they failed to protect leads at home in the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning and lost that series in five games.

"It's just really something to build on," Tavares said. "We overcame a lot last year. We felt like we had a lot more challenges from the previous year, but we got further and we obviously got over a big hump in winning that first-round series. But now it's just continue that growth.

"We really learned a lot in that series against Tampa Bay and why we weren't successful. Just small differences; you've really got to win the games you deserve to win. There was probably a couple of those we felt we had a great opportunity to obviously take and change the series, but it didn't go that way. You just reflect on what we can do better and how we can approach it differently."

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