Tavares ready for ’emotional’ reception in Long Island return

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The date that New York Islanders fans have had circled on their calendars since the summer has finally arrived. Thursday night inside Nassau Coliseum John Tavares will make his long-awaited return to Long Island.

In many situations when a former player returns as an opponent, a video tribute followed by an emotional standing ovation takes place. Tavares will likely get that video tribute from the Islanders during a first-period television timeout, but the warm and fuzzy feelings that usually follow will not be present. It will be loud inside the building, but the boos will drown out any fans wanting to show their appreciation for the franchise’s former captain.

Two months after he made the decision to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency, Tavares told me that he was hoping for a “positive reception” from the Islanders faithful in his first game back in New York. Even then, he understood his move wasn’t popular with many fans who felt betrayed by him.

Walk around Barclays Center or Nassau Coliseum this season and you’ll spot many “91 TAVARES” jerseys have had the nameplates changed to either “91 GORING” or “91 TRAITOR,” thanks to tape and a Sharpie. This week, a local news station published a video with a “Dear John” theme that had fans sound off as if Tavares was on the other end of the message.

Whatever happens with the fan reaction when Tavares, who played 669 regular season games with the Islanders, steps on to the ice, he can’t control how they’re are going to feel.

“I don’t really try to worry about it,” Tavares said after the Maple Leafs’ 6-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night.
“Like I’ve said many times since Day One when I was drafted there, I fully embraced being an Islander. I loved it and I gave everything I had. Whatever it is now, it’s not up to me to convince anybody that. I’ve got enough to worry about. I’m just trying to play my game to help the Maple Leafs, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

“I think it’s something he needs to put to bed and get on with it,” said Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. “The great thing about fans is they pay their money and get to say whatever they want. He’s a good man, he was good for their franchise, he’s great for our franchise, he made a decision to come home. I don’t know if anyone can fault you for that.”

As he’s done numerous times since signing with Toronto, Tavares defended his move and the process he went through in making the decision to leave New York. 

“I think I had every right to go through the process that I went through,” Tavares said “I tried to be open and honest when I made my decision. I had no idea what I was going to do until I made my decision. People can take it whatever way they want, but I’m just going to go out there and play and do what I have to do to be at my best. All I can do is control what I can control.”

Maybe over time the hard feelings from Islanders fans will soften, much like how we’ve seen the relationship between Pittsburgh Penguins fans and Jaromir Jagr evolve since his departure from the city in 2001.

Or maybe not.

If feelings soften, it won’t happen for a very long time. Islanders fans are eager to shower Tavares with boos Thursday night while celebrating a turnaround season that has the team in first place in the Metropolitan Division. A win against the Maple Leafs will be huge for more than just reasons of revenge.

Tavares won’t get the “positive reception” he’s been hoping for, but that’s to be expected. How will he feel being on the receiving end of such negativity after his nine years with the franchise? He’s not sure.

“Hard to say what I’ll feel,” Tavares said. “I’m sure it’ll be an emotional evening, but at the same time I want to try to focus on playing and just go out there and do what I have to do.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.