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Donovan Learning From Experienced D-partner

Monday, 09.23.2013 / 12:06 PM / 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.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 PIT 34 22 7 5 108 80 49
2 NYI 34 23 11 0 105 94 46
3 MTL 35 22 11 2 95 84 46
4 TBL 36 21 11 4 117 96 46
5 DET 35 18 8 9 100 87 45
6 TOR 35 20 12 3 118 102 43
7 NYR 32 18 10 4 97 83 40
8 WSH 34 17 11 6 99 90 40
9 BOS 35 18 14 3 91 91 39
10 FLA 32 15 9 8 73 82 38
11 PHI 34 14 14 6 97 101 34
12 OTT 34 14 14 6 90 94 34
13 CBJ 33 14 16 3 80 107 31
14 NJD 36 12 17 7 78 104 31
15 BUF 35 13 19 3 69 115 29
16 CAR 34 10 20 4 70 93 24

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 34 13 16 -5 29
K. Okposo 34 8 21 -4 29
B. Nelson 34 14 13 6 27
R. Strome 34 6 15 12 21
F. Nielsen 34 6 11 -1 17
N. Leddy 34 5 10 8 15
J. Boychuk 24 2 12 6 14
N. Kulemin 34 6 7 -2 13
M. Grabovski 31 5 7 3 12
T. Hickey 33 2 9 3 11
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 18 6 0 .919 2.24
C. Johnson 5 5 0 .867 3.54

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