Senators ready for Tavares

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

The last time John Tavares stood on the ice at Scotiabank Place, he was wearing a gold medal around his neck -- as a proud member of Team Canada.

It's a memory Erik Karlsson, the flashy young Senators defenceman, who won the silver medal with Sweden at the world junior championship, would rather forget.

Fast forward a year and Tavares returns to Ottawa as a New York Islander, the first overall pick in June's draft.

Tonight, Tavares and Karlsson will meet again, but this time in the NHL. It'll be Karlsson’s first regular-season game on home ice, while it’s Tavares’ first NHL game on home soil.

“I'm just trying to forget that I ended up second last year,” said Karlsson with a smile.

Tavares will get plenty of attention as the Senators return home following a two-game road trip to begin the season. The Islanders are building their franchise around the former London Knights’ centre and he’s coming off a two-point performance — including his first NHL goal — Saturday against Pittsburgh.

While there will be plenty of pressure on Tavares to lead the Islanders, there’s probably a lot less heat on him than if he was with the Rangers or a Canadian team.

“Anytime you go first overall, there’s always a lot of pressure, but I would think they’re going to work hard to protect him,” said Senators defenceman Chris Campoli, acquired last season from the Isles. “He’s a young kid. He’ll be successful and they’ve got some young players around him. I would think that a guy like (Tavares) is just going to complement that.”

Fans should keep their expectations in check. While he had 58 goals and 56 assists in 56 games last season in the OHL, this isn’t London.

“There are going to be nights where things are going his way and he’s allowed to use his skill in the offensive zone and there are going to be nights where he’s very frustrated where nothing happens for him,” said Senators assistant GM Tim Murray. “That’s biggest thing for a young guy: Consistency.

“Certainly, from the circles to the net, he’s as good as anybody. He’s got great hands, a great shot and a great release. He can score on NHL goaltenders as well as he did on junior goaltenders. He won’t get the same amount, but he’s got that great instinct for scoring goals. If you give him any room from the faceoff dot to the net, he’ll make you pay.”

That’s why Tavares can expect to see a lot of Ottawa’s shutdown pair of Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips.

“It’ll be exciting for sure to be back in Canada and in Ottawa where I’ve played a lot of junior hockey,” said Tavares. “I won the world juniors there so it’s a great place to go back to with the experience I had. But the focus will be on us winning.”


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