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Ness hopping the boards onto island of opportunity

Defenseman Aaron Ness is making the most of his time on Long Island

Monday, 02.20.2012 / 10:26 AM / News
By Cory Wright
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Ness hopping the boards onto island of opportunity
Skating on an island of opportunity, New York Islanders defenseman Aaron Ness is trying to make the most of his.

Since being called up on an emergency basis Feb. 6, Ness has played in eight straight games and is hoping to turn his dream into a full-time job.

“It’s what you dream about, it’s why you play the game,” Ness said. “To finally be here has been a lot of fun and it’s a good process to go through. I’ve grown to love it already.”

Ness’s debut was a tight, defensive battle in a raucous Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where the Islanders won 1-0 in a shootout. With family members in attendance, the bright lights of a first NHL game and a mid-game injury to an already depleted defense, it could have been easy for the rookie to get overwhelmed. Ness handled himself like a veteran though, believing in his game and not trying to do too much. 

Seven games later, Ness says he’s been welcomed into the fold with open arms and feels like one of the guys.

“You feel like one of them in a hurry,” Ness said. “It obviously helped the initial transition having a couple Bridgeport guys here, having someone show you the ropes a little more. Once you get to know everyone, they’re all good guys.”

Ness played an average of 14:33 in his first two NHL games, but Head Coach Jack Capuano liked what he saw from the youngster. Capuano promptly rewarded Ness with more ice time and responsibility. In his last five games, Ness averaged over 18 minutes of ice time, the highest of all four defensive call-ups this season.

“I’m not afraid to give anybody from Bridgeport an opportunity when they come up,” Capuano said. “Ness fits that category the same. He comes up and he’s playing well, he’s earned his ice time.”

Ness’s played a season-high 20:40 against Florida on Feb. 12. It’s not only how much ice time he’s been getting, but the situations he’s playing in and who he is playing against. Playing with shutdown specialist Andrew MacDonald means big minutes against the opposition’s top talent.

“He’s an incredible hockey player,” Ness said of his new partner. “He helps with all the little things, whether it’s (telling me to) keep your stick on the ice in certain situations or letting me know who we are out there against. It’s been a pleasure and hopefully I can continue to play with him.”

I’m not afraid to give anybody from Bridgeport an opportunity when they come up. Ness fits that category the same. He comes up and he’s playing well, he’s earned his ice time." - Jack Capuano, head coach
MacDonald likes what he’s seen from his partner and how he’s handling himself in the big league.

“I think he’s done a great job stepping in,” MacDonald said. “When I talked to him after his first game, he said he was just trying to keep things simple. He did a really good job of that and as each game goes on you can see his confidence growing. He’s playing like an NHL defenseman.”

Ness doesn’t bring the physical presence of fellow Isles blueliner’s Travis Hamonic or Milan Jurcina, but MacDonald said that it hasn’t been a problem for the undersized Ness.

“He’s not going to take any runs at guys or go for the big hit,” MacDonald said. “It’s all about having a good stick, good body positioning on the bigger players. There are a lot of power forwards that are obviously going to out-muscle you and you have to outsmart them.” 

Ness hasn’t been on the wrong end of too many big hits or turnovers. He finished Thursday’s 5-1 loss to St. Louis with a plus-1 rating and hasn’t been a minus in any of his first six NHL games.

“They are giving me a shot,” Ness said. “It’s been going pretty well so far. I feel comfortable out there now and as each game comes, I feel more comfortable.”

Ness’s opportunity has washed ashore on Long Island and with the way he’s played through his first taste of the NHL, he hopes to avoid a ferry ride back to Bridgeport any time soon.



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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 63 41 17 5 171 139 87
2 NYI 65 41 21 3 207 182 85
3 NYR 62 39 17 6 196 153 84
4 TBL 65 39 20 6 213 171 84
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 65 35 20 10 193 162 80
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 64 28 23 13 156 181 69
10 PHI 64 27 25 12 170 186 66
11 OTT 61 27 23 11 173 166 65
12 NJD 64 27 27 10 144 165 64
13 TOR 64 26 33 5 173 195 57
14 CBJ 63 26 33 4 163 201 56
15 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
16 BUF 64 19 40 5 123 215 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 65 30 35 4 65
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 65 14 28 23 42
B. Nelson 65 17 20 7 37
F. Nielsen 65 11 25 13 36
A. Lee 59 21 13 13 34
J. Bailey 53 13 19 11 32
J. Boychuk 55 7 23 14 30
N. Leddy 65 8 18 16 26
T. Hamonic 55 4 21 16 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 33 13 1 .911 2.47
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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