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Metropolitan Division notebook

John Tavares confident Islanders can reach playoffs; Taylor Hall feeling at home with Devils

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

John Tavares is not giving up.

The 26-year-old captain said his focus is on trying to help the New York Islanders get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which he continues to believe is possible despite what he called an up-and-down season so far.

"It's a long season and it doesn't always go the way you script it or the way you hoped and obviously there's been some change lately," he said. "It's one heck of an Eastern Conference this year, so we're just trying to fight our way back into contention and have an opportunity. We have a few games in hand, so just take it one game at a time. Still a lot of hockey left."

After a 6-5 overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, the Islanders have 31 games remaining and trail the Philadelphia Flyers by three points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with three games in hand. Tavares acknowledged it was difficult for him when coach Jack Capuano was fired and replaced by Doug Weight on Jan. 17, but said he hasn't lost faith in the Islanders this season or beyond.

"Obviously, coaches getting let go sometimes is for a good reason, sometimes for not, and certainly I know [Capuano] did everything he could," Tavares said. "It's disappointing as a group that we couldn't go out there and do enough to the level we expected and I take a lot of that responsibility. So when it happened I took it pretty hard for sure."

Video: NYI@DET: Tavares buries Strome's dish for PPG

Although Tavares appreciated that general manager Garth Snow called him 20 minutes before announcing Capuano's firing "just to let me know," he said he doesn't expect any special treatment or a voice in decisions with management or ownership because he's captain or because of his obvious importance to the Islanders.

In fact, Tavares said he doesn't speak to Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky, who took over ownership from Charles Wang on July 1, 2016, "on a daily basis, weekly basis or even a monthly basis, but certainly when they're around we talk and we say, 'Hello.'"

"I think for me as a player and as a captain I believe in trying to convey or show and connect the message from the coaching staff or management to the players in the locker room," he said. "It's not for me to kind of give my opinion on certain things. I think that's what they're there for is to bring their leadership and set the structure for the organization and for us as players to kind of just follow them, go out there and worry about playing."

And though Tavares said results are important, his commitment to the Islanders won't be impacted by how they do over the remainder of this season.

Video: DAL@NYI: Tavares buries his second while shorthanded

"We all play to win and, personally, you want to be an impactful player," he said. "But I don't think from now until the end of the season will mean more than say what happened last year or previous years. I think you take that all into account and, obviously, the vision of the future of the team, which I believe is in good hands."

Tavares can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, but has stated more than once his desire to stay with the Islanders, who selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, and he'd be open to signing a contract extension when he is eligible July 1.

Hall at home in New Jersey

After being traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the New Jersey Devils on June 29, Taylor Hall went through a process every traded player goes through as far as adjusting.

On the ice, that meant learning a different system under coach John Hynes. Off the ice, he had to find a place to live and get used to getting around in the sometimes frantic New Jersey-New York area.

With an assist from his former junior teammate with the Windsor Spitfires, Adam Henrique, Hall feels more at home now.

"He was a guy that helped me out when I first got there just trying to find housing and where to live, what to do for a car, that kind of thing," Hall said of Henrique. "Having a guy like that there made it really easy, but you kind of have to go through that stuff yourself."

Video: NJD@CBJ: Hall goes five-hole with slick backhand

Although Hall said he was overwhelmed by New York City initially, he feels comfortable now.

"The area in New Jersey is really a pleasant surprise for me," he said. "I really didn't know much about it before I came there, but being in the New York City kind of area, whether you're in the suburbs or in the city, there's a lot to offer."

Living in New Jersey had Hall thinking briefly about changing his NFL rooting allegiance from the Green Bay Packers to the New York Giants but he opted to "stay strong" with the Packers. Hall said he never considered following Henrique and jumping on the New England Patriots Super Bowl bandwagon.

"No, no," Hall said. "I think he's a fake Patriots fan."

Stat pack

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby needs three points to become the 86th player in NHL history, and third in less than a month (Alex Ovechkin on Jan. 11, Henrik Sedin on Jan. 20), to reach 1,000. … Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey's overtime goal against the Islanders on Saturday was the fourth of his NHL career. Hainsey, who also scored in the second period, had his first two-goal game since Dec. 2, 2008, when he was with the Atlanta Thrashers (5-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens). … With a 3-2 victory against the Canadiens on Saturday, Capitals coach Barry Trotz earned his 693rd win to pass Dick Irvin for sixth in NHL history. … Michael Grabner leads the New York Rangers with 23 goals, including 22 at even strength, which leads the League.

Games to watch

New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers (Feb. 9, 7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TCN-PH, NHL.TV) -- A pivotal game between two teams in the race for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Anaheim Ducks at Washington Capitals (Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m. ET; CSN-DC, FS-W, NHL.TV) -- The Capitals wrap up a four-game homestand by facing the Ducks before going on their bye week.

New York Rangers at Columbus Blue Jackets (Feb. 13, 7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, MSG, NHL.TV) -- The Blue Jackets held off a Rangers third period rally to win 6-4 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 31. They are 2-1-0 against the Rangers this season.

New York Rangers at New York Islanders (Feb. 16, 7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, MSG+ 2, MSG, NHL.TV) -- The Rangers and Islanders face off for the first time since Dec. 6 at Barclays Center. They split their first two games this season, with each winning at home.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets (Feb. 17, 7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports, FS-O, ROOT, NHL.TV) -- The Penguins defeated the Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime in their last game at PPG Paints Arena on Feb. 3.

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