NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It could have been a lot worse.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since returning from the Sochi Olympics, John Tavares announced Tuesday that he will not require surgery to repair the partially torn medial collateral ligament and completely torn meniscus in his left knee.
The Islanders’ franchise player will require eight to 12 weeks of rehab, but should be able to participate in offseason workouts leading up to training camp in September.
The 23-year-old center said he’s had a similar injury, referring to a damaged left MCL he suffered during a tryout for Canada’s under-18 international team back when he was 16.
“I didn’t miss any games. I remember not being able to do a whole lot, especially in the beginning. So it’s an adjustment,” Tavares said. “Just be here, support my teammates, put everything I can into rehab and therapy and get back to where I need to be, and even better.”
The Islanders will likely need a miracle to make the playoffs as they sit 12 points out of both third place in the Metropolitan Division and the second wild card in the Eastern Conference with 22 games to play. At the time of his injury, Tavares was third in the NHL in scoring with 66 points, including a team-high 42 assists.
Tavares went down against Latvia during quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament. On crutches he watched Canada win its second straight gold medal. Clearly frustrated, Islanders general manager Garth Snow lashed out at both the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee over the idea of NHL players participating in the Olympics. But despite everything that happened, Tavares said he’d jump at the chance to represent his country again.
“For me, as a player I think it’s important for us to play,” Tavares said. “I think you saw how much we enjoy representing our countries at that level. But you put ourselves in [Snow’s] shoes, you can understand why teams are concerned about injuries. Certainly I know he cares a lot about the Islanders and so do I. There’s always that concern any time you step on the ice. It’s a tough situation. I love playing for my country and if I got the call again, I would.”
The Islanders could undergo further changes over the next two weeks, as it is expected that they will move both forward Thomas Vanek and defenseman Andrew MacDonald prior to the March 5 trade deadline after both players recently turned down lucrative contract extensions.
New York will also be minus second-line center Frans Nielsen due to the broken hand he suffered against Colorado prior to the Olympic break.
The Islanders called up their entire top line from Bridgeport on Monday. Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Mike Halmo will figure to see significant playing time the rest of the way.
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