EDMONTON – John Tavares may not have scored in his first professional hockey game, but he did manage to log almost 23 minutes of ice time.
Not bad for a rookie coming off a bout of the flu. The first pick overall at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft made his debut for the New York Islanders on Wednesday, a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
The Ontario Hockey League phenom was battling flu symptoms Monday and was unavailable for the Islanders’ first exhibition game in Terrace, B.C., against the Canucks.
Despite a strong start to the game, the Oakville, Ont., native – who had 433 points in 247 career OHL games through four seasons – ended up failing to crack the score-sheet and was a minus-1 on the night.
“Early on I felt pretty good and though I did some good things out there,” Tavares said. “But as the game went on I felt what you need to be in proper game shape for this level, for sure.
“There were some positives, but still a lot of things to work on too. There are some things I still need to get under my belt. I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Islanders head coach Scott Glen said they aren’t putting too much pressure on the highly touted youngster at this point.
“If he scores 50 goals and adds 50 assists this year, that would be a great start for him,” he joked. “Quite honestly, just like the rest of our younger players, we want him to grow and develop through the course of the year. The first half for him is probably going to be about getting acclimated to the pro game and getting familiar with our system of play, just like it was for Josh Bailey.
“Whatever production he has is going to be a bonus and just from what we’ve seen so far, we’re fairly confident he’s going to be able to produce.”
Sheldon Souray scored the game winner with just 2:15 to play as the Oilers moved to 2-0 in the pre-season with the 3-2 win.
Sam Gagner and Dustin Penner also scored for the Oilers, who iced a largely veteran-laden lineup, while Jeff Deslauriers earned his second pre-season win in the Edmonton net.
Oilers head coach Pat Quinn was glad to see Souray put the puck in the net after seeing his cannon of a shot break two sheets of glass behind the New York net in the second period.
“I would rather see it break the net than the glass,” he said. “We know he can fire that thing with such great velocity. That has been his bread and butter for a lot of years. I’m sure the Rexall building people aren’t very happy with him right now.”
The veteran Oilers defenceman is pretty happy with what he has seen thus far from the new coaching regime in Edmonton.
“They are making corrections on the bench and not letting us take shortcuts, which is a positive thing,” Souray said.
“They are good communicators. We definitely know what they are asking us to do and they will stay on us until we do it.”
Bruno Gervais and Calvin deHaan replied for the Islanders, now 0-2 in exhibition play.
The Islanders struck first six and a half minutes into the contest as a loose puck went back to Gervais and his slap-shot from the point went through Oilers starter Devan Dubnyk.
Edmonton came close to tying it up minutes later when Jordan Eberle rang a shot off the post but Dustin Penner couldn’t corral the rebound and put the puck in with Islanders goaltender Nathan Lawson out of position. Edmonton missed another opportunity not long after as Lawson came across to rob Ales Hemsky with a stick save on an Edmonton two-man advantage.
It remained a 1-0 game until eight minutes into the third period when Andrew Cogliano sprung Penner on a partial break and his wrister beat Lawson stick-side to tie it up.
Edmonton then took the 2-1 lead two minutes later as Gagner snuck out from behind the net and was able to stuff home a backhander.
However with just under five minutes to play, the Islanders tied it up de Haan put a screened shot from the slot past Jeff Delauriers, who came into the Edmonton net midway through the game.
Souray’s game winner was set up by Gagner, who had a two-point night.
The Islanders are at it again on Thursday night in Calgary. Edmonton next plays host to the Florida Panthers on Friday.
Notes: Former Edmonton captain Doug Weight, who missed much of last season with a knee injury, played his first game of the pre-season alongside TavaresOilers fans were hoping that former Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson might play in the match but the free agent signing for the Islanders remained at their main camp in Saskatoon There is some hope that New York goalie Rick DiPietro will be back sooner rather than later. The oft-injured netminder has recently started skating in pads and has been taking shots in training camp Top Edmonton prospect Jordan Eberle played on the second line alongside Cogliano and Penner. He was named the game’s first star.