Donovan Learning From Experienced D-partner

Monday, 09.23.2013 / 12:06 PM ET / News
By Travis Betts
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Donovan Learning From Experienced D-partner
Defensemen Matt Donovan and Andrew MacDonald have been paired together through two preseason games
Matt Donovan led AHL Bridgeport defensemen in goals (14), assists (34) and points (48) a season ago, but hopes to transition to the NHL in 2013-14 (Photo: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images Sport).

Life’s three certainties (according to Long Islanders): Death, taxes and the defense pairing of Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic.

But this year’s training camp has altered one of those. MacDonald, entering his sixth year with the club, has been paired with up-and-coming blueliner Matt Donovan for much of camp, including two of the team’s preseason games.

Despite being paired with the same defense partner for most of the last three seasons, MacDonald says the experiment has gone smoothly so far.

“I think he (Donovan) learns pretty quickly and has picked up on everything the coaches wanted him to do,” MacDonald said. “He's a smart kid and has good instincts. So far it's been very easy.”

Donovan, who paced AHL Bridgeport defenseman last season in all offensive categories, led the Sound Tigers with 34 assists and ranked third with 48 points. MacDonald believes the 23-year-old can provide an offensive threat at the NHL level.

“Donovan likes to jump up in the play a bit and he'll create a lot more offensively,” MacDonald said. “With Travis, we were more likely to stay back and concentrate on defense because we were often up against the top line. It's hard to be really offense-oriented in that situation.”

Donovan played three games with the Islanders at the end of the 2011-12 season, but wants to make the full-time jump to the NHL this time around. Because of the seamless philosophies between the Islanders and their AHL affiliate, Donovan says the adjustments thus far in camp have been minimal.

“It's pretty much exactly the same playing style,” Donovan said. “I played for Coach (Brent) Thompson in Bridgeport a couple of seasons ago so I know his expectations and what he likes. It's been easy so far.”

Though MacDonald says he hasn’t had a lot of advice to give the rookie, Donovan has absorbed all the lessons from his camp defense partner.

“He talks to me a lot and tells me what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong,” Donovan said. “Coach Thompson makes it easy also. He likes to talk and coach a lot.”

Nothing indicates that this camp experiment will be a permanent change, but a two-week preseason schedule has provided head coach Jack Capuano with the ability to tinker with lines and defense pairings. Capuano has said that there are spots on the back end open for competition, and Donovan is doing everything possible to keep his name in the mix.

“I've been working hard and focusing every day,” Donovan said. “The two games I played didn't go our way, but I think I played pretty well and I just have to keep working hard and hopefully I make the team.”

Two preseason games doesn’t give the MacDonald-Donovan pairing the same stability as the IRS or the Grim Reaper, but given MacDonald’s proven ability to help develop a young defensive partner into a high-end talent, Long Islanders should embrace the new duo.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
12 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 77 29 42 6 201 245 64
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 77 34 43 -2 77
R. Strome 76 16 32 20 48
K. Okposo 55 16 31 -11 47
F. Nielsen 76 14 28 8 42
B. Nelson 77 19 22 7 41
A. Lee 71 23 16 10 39
J. Bailey 65 15 23 3 38
J. Boychuk 67 8 25 9 33
N. Leddy 73 10 21 14 31
T. Hamonic 67 5 26 16 31
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 36 16 2 .913 2.42
M. Neuvirth 1 3 1 .881 2.94

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