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.

Flames acquire Freddie Hamilton, brother of Dougie

Freddie Hamilton
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Roughly three months after acquiring Dougie Hamilton, the Calgary Flames have brought his brother on board too.

Freddie Hamilton was pried away from the Colorado Avalanche for the cost a 2016 conditional seventh-round draft pick, per the Avalanche’s website. The Flames announced that he will report to AHL Stockton.

Freddie, who is the older of the two at 23, is a center that excelled offensively in the OHL and has chipped in at the AHL level. However, he has just one point in 29 contests with Colorado and the San Jose Sharks.

This is obviously not a big trade, but perhaps Freddie will eventually become a solid member of the Flames’ supporting cast. If nothing else, it didn’t cost Calgary much to reunite the brothers. The duo previously played together with the Niagara IceDogs.

Fabbri primed to make Blues in significant role

Jason Demers, Robby Fabbri
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With the start of the regular season just around the corner, it looks like Robby Fabbri will not only make his NHL debut on Thursday, but also get meaningful minutes.

During Sunday’s practice the 19-year-old forward played alongside Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. Nothing is set in stone, but that combination did gel.

“I think we want to look at what the combinations look like now rather than do it at the start of the season,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re looking at a hard match line and we’re also looking at taking advantage of speed and skill off the rush.

“I really liked what I saw today. I really liked Lehtera’s line, they looked very dynamic off the rush.”

The top line of Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, and Vladimir Tarasenko seems like a good bet to play together for the time being. Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz will stick together on the second line while Dmitrij Jaskin and David Backes can expect to be regular partners on the third unit. The X-factors will be Fabbri and Troy Brouwer as Hitchcock has left the door open to alternating between the two of them on the second and third line depending on the opponent.

Fabbri was taken with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and is looking to make the leap after a brief stint in the AHL last season. At the OHL level, he’s been a dominate force with the Guelph Storm, scoring 25 goals and 51 points in 30 games in 2014-15.