Tavares teammates promise support before New York returns


TORONTO – Milan Lucic still remembers his sweaty palms, fast-paced mind and insomnia. His return to Boston after eight seasons with the Bruins was nothing more than another game, and made him empathic with what John Tavares is experiencing before Thursday's comeback to Long Island.

"You try not to think about it, try to focus on it like any other day of play. You can not stop thinking about it," said Lucic. "I remember the first time I played the Bruins [in February 2016] after I got traded and I do not know how much I slept the night before or even the day of the game.

"I guess I was just staring at the wall and the ceiling thinking about the game."

Tavares has an advantage over that, as his Toronto Maple Leafs gets the Edmonton Oilers from Lucic on Wednesday, before closing against the Islanders. He must be very tired when the bus arrives at the hotel in the wee hours of the morning.

However, there is an additional layer of intrigue in his return because the icon of a franchise and the number 1 choice was painted as a villain by fans on Long Island since he decided to sign a seven-year, $ 77 million contract with him . Maple Leafs hometown on July 1.

AN video posted by News 12 Long Island on Tuesday included fans calling Tavares "traitor" and "snake." There seems to be little doubt that he will be booed inside the Nassau Coliseum despite requests from GM Islanders Lou Lamoriello and actor / super fan Kevin Connolly, among others, to show the former captain some respect.

"You feel bad about it," said Sam Gagner of Oilers, a close friend of Tavares, whom he confided during his free agent decision. "You see all things happening [social media]. But the guys who know Johnny know it was a difficult decision for him. "

"You look at the JT, I think he made a decision that was better for you and for his career," said Lucic. "When you are a UFA, you have the right and the opportunity to do it and he felt like he did [what’s best] to himself.

"It looks like it's working very well for him by now."

Tavares is having a career year in Toronto – at the pace of overcoming his best points for both goals and points. He is an integral part of a young team that must compete for a Stanley Cup throughout the duration of their contract.

The Icelanders are also having a resurgent season under Lamoriello and new trainer Barry Trotz, surprisingly leading the Metropolitan Division next to Washington. But the team's success did not diminish the anger of a fan base that was shocked by its decision to leave after nine seasons.

If you have no interest, you can understand why Tavares chose Toronto as Islanders, Sharks, Lightning, Bruins and Stars. This gave him a chance to join Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly before any of these players reached the pinnacle of their careers.

"I think in the end, people can talk about what they want, but he came to Toronto because of the players that were here," Leaf Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said last month. "I do not think [there’s really] any other reason. The organization, I think, is good and we will keep trying to improve, but the ability to play with these players for a long time was the key. "

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Each of these players participated in the recruitment of Tavares and will try to help Thursday as quietly as possible.

"As teammates, it's our job to ensure that we support him and, above all, to play well and hopefully win," said Rielly.

"It's definitely one that we've all circulated on our calendars," added Matthews. "Make sure we have two points for him."

Lucic noticed that he had "Luuu" instead of booed on his return to TD Garden. His Los Angeles Kings were also eliminated with a satisfying 9-2 victory that included a goal and two assists.

Like many hockey fans, he is interested in seeing how things happen to Tavares against the Islanders.

"I think it will be more special the fact that they are playing at the Nassau Coliseum instead of in Brooklyn," Lucic said. "I know fans are going to be nervous and prepared for it."


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