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Tavares, Islanders hope for strong start, return to playoffs

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

By The Associated Press


LAST SEASON: 41-29-12, 94 points. Fifth in Metropolitan Division.

COACH: Doug Weight (second season, second NHL season).

ADDED: F Jordan Eberle.

LOST: F Ryan Strome, D Travis Hamonic, G Jean-Francois Berube.

PLAYER TO WATCH: John Tavares. The captain is unsigned beyond this season. He has averaged 33 goals and 41 assists the last three seasons, and his goal in the second overtime of Game 6 of the first round against Florida in March 2016 gave the franchise its only postseason series win since 1993. He had 28 goals and 38 assists last season, his lowest totals since 2013-14. He could be in for a bump with Eberle joining him on the top line along with Anders Lee, who is coming off a breakout season.

OUTLOOK: The Islanders missed a third straight postseason appearance by one point last season, doomed by a poor start in which they had just six wins in the first 20 games. The focus now is on making sure they get off to a better start in their first full season under Weight, who took over in January and led the team to a 24-12-4 mark over the last 40 games. The coach promised a hard training camp to jump-start the new season, and the players responded be opening 4-0-2 in the preseason. Hamonic's departure opens the door on defense for an influx of young players, led by Ryan Pulock.

Updated September 27, 2017

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