When John Tavares was hit along the boards trying to squeeze past Latvian defender Arturs Kulda during Canada's quarterfinal game last week, he knew immediately something was wrong. After skating to the bench, the team therapist ran him through a few tests, and determined things might be serious.
They are, but not as serious as they might have been. The prognosis: a partial tear of Tavares's MCL that will not require surgery. The Islanders' captain is expected to rehab for 8-to-12 weeks and will be ready for training camp in September.
This injury isn't a new one for Tavares. When he was 16 and playing for the OHL's Oshawa Generals, he suffered a similar MCL tear in the same knee.
The news is a death blow to the New York Islanders' already slim post-season hopes. Without their team captain for the rest of the season, and these being the final days on Long Island for Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald with next weeks' NHL trade deadline approaching, the momentum gained from last season's playoff berth is a distant memory.
"I'm still having a tough time with that I'm not going to be playing for quite a while," Tavares told reporters on Long Island Tuesday morning.
Injuries to Tavares and a handful of other NHL players in Sochi once again re-kindled the debate about the risks of participating in the Olympic Games. Islanders general manager Garth Snow vented last week to Arthur Staple of Newsday after the news that his star player would miss the rest of the season.
"Are the IIHF or IOC going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now? It's a joke," he said. "They want all the benefits from NHL players playing in the Olympics and don't want to pay when our best player gets hurt."
Tavares, who was appearing in his first Olympics and has represented Canada in three World Championships since being drafted by the Islanders in 2009, understands Snow's frustrations, but understands the risks involved in international play.
"I know he cares a lot about the Islanders and this organization and so do I," Tavares said. "There's always that concern, but with this game there's always that risk anytime you step on the ice."
"It's a tough situation, but I certainly love playing for my country and if I got the call again, I would."
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