John Tavares is back, although which version of "John Tavares" is in the lineup tonight is to be determined. Two days of being stuck in bed, weight loss and dehydration, plus a little bit of travel all combines to throw a wrench in what should be a player's healthiest part of the season:
"I weighed myself [Wednesday] and I was about three pounds light still," Tavares said after New York held an optional skate. "I certainly had a little extra dessert [Wednesday] night. Feeling good and excited to get back at it."
Regardless, his return comes just in time as the Islanders face the (New) Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens in Quebec. The Isles were just 1-1-1 in his absence, with some low-scoring affairs against some low-threatening teams. Now they face the Habs who are without the injured Carey Price.
Steve Bernier is the lucky man who gets to tell his grandkids he was replaced by Tavares, so he returns to the scratch list. Jaroslav Halak starts in goal again, but he is backed up by Repentigny, Quebec, native Jean-Francois Berube.
The Canadiens, you've surely heard, are off to a roaring start this season and they haven't let up even after Price got hurt. Mike Condon has done just fine filling, with the only "blemish" in his 4-0-1 record coming in Tuesday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Senators.
The Habs' possession stats have taken a step forward -- a scary proposition if any version of 2014-15 or even October 2015 Price returns -- and, like the Islanders, they can brag about having some sort of "best fourth line in hockey."
Which is just another way of saying they are deep.
How deep? Max Pacioretty leads the team in goals with seven, yet he's gone five games without a point.
How deep? Signed as low-risk high-reward insurance, Alexander Semin isn't even in the lineup. He has played 10 games and produced one goal and two assists, but he's been a scratch since Oct. 27. Also scratched again is defenseman Jarred Tinordi, who is receiving the full Matt Donovan treatment: He's yet to play a game this season, but they aren't waiving him.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight here by 7:30. You may now once again pick Tavares.