John Tavares

Tavares leads rising Isles past struggling Leafs


John Tavares and the New York Islanders seem like they might just be turning things around. On Tuesday, that meant making it appear that the opposite is true for the Maple Leafs, as the Isles topped Toronto 5-3.

Islanders climb

Simply put, Tavares has been dazzling. Chew on this: he has eight points (three assists tonight, a hat trick and two helpers on Monday) in the last two nights. He’s also rising up the ranks of the NHL’s top scorers, as his 54 points tie him with Patrick Kane for second in the league.

(Apparently getting into town late and facing back-to-backs can’t stop the Canadian Olympian.)

The Islanders have won two in a row and five of their last six games after seemingly looking left for dead in mid-December. It remains to be seen how Evgeni Nabokov’s IR stint may affect the team, but so far, they’re winning with Kevin Poulin back in net.

Wilting Leafs

Jonathan Bernier has often been brilliant this season, but he allowed four goals in tonight’s defeat after giving up five goals and being pulled in an embarrassing loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday. While he’s often carried a sorely out-chanced Leafs club this season, Randy Carlyle pinned three of tonight’s four goals on the 25-year-old, the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle reports.

“It was one of those games,” Bernier said.

Toronto faces three of its next four games on the road, so it’s up to Carlyle & Co. to figure out how to avoid more of those games.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.