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Donovan, Reinhart aim to make their mark

Two young d-men look to make an impact in the NHL

Tuesday, 10.01.2013 / 3:25 PM / News
By Travis Betts
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Donovan, Reinhart aim to make their mark
Two young d-men look to make an impact in the NHL
Griffin Reinhart (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Islanders will carry one extra forward and two extra defensemen when they hit the ice Friday at New Jersey, and as lines and pairings continue to take shape, two “new” faces on the back line stand out.

Matt Donovan, who played three games with the Islanders in 2011-12 but spent last season with AHL Bridgeport, and Griffin Reinhart, the Islanders first round selection in the 2012 Draft, made the 23-man roster. The other six defensemen on the team were all with the Islanders last season, but head coach Jack Capuano doesn’t have anybody penciled in as “top-6” yet for Oct. 4. Capuano says it’s entirely up to the players to determine which defensemen will dress.

“Their performance will dictate the lineup,” Capuano said. “We’ll decide from game-to-game. We all have to sacrifice and have the willingness to battle for one another. That's how you win hockey games.”

In the past, Capuano has utilized the Islanders blue line depth, rotating players in and out of the lineup based on performance. He made it clear that Donovan, who beat out 11 other defensemen in training camp, isn’t on Long Island to sit in a press box.

Matt Donovan is offensive; it's as simple as that,” Capuano said. “We lost Mark Streit. He was obviously a guy who could run the power play. Matt plays the way I want the D to play in my system as far as activating and being the fourth man involved in the attack.”

Donovan, who led Bridgeport defensemen in goals (14), assists (34) and points (48) in 75 games last season, said he has had plenty of conversations with coaches and the player development staff, and has rounded his game in the defensive zone to become more NHL-ready.

“I had enough talks last year when I wasn't getting called up,” Donovan said. “They told me to just keep concentrating on defense first, keep the intensity up and be ready to play every game. I did that all last year and I think they knew I had improved those elements heading into camp. Luckily I had a good camp and preseason.”

Reinhart is in a different position because he is still eligible to return to his junior team, the Edmonton Oil Kings, any time before the Islanders 10th regular season game on Oct. 25 at Pittsburgh. Capuano wants to see everything he can from the 19-year-old before deciding whether to keep Reinhart on the 23-man roster.

“We’ll evaluate his practices daily, see how he plays, and then go from there,” Capuano said. “With the [eligibility] rules, it’s an opportunity for a good, young defenseman to get a look. Right now, everybody’s got a chance.”

Reinhart, who has hung his hat to this point on being a shutdown defenseman first, beat a defender one-on-one for a goal in his first preseason game at Calgary on Sept. 17.

“I think I've always been criticized about my skating,” Reinhart said. “It’s improved a lot every year and I think this year it took another big jump. The coaches said to keep playing the way I am and keep putting the effort in. Obviously, this is just the beginning and there’s a ways to go, but so far I've proven that I can play here and I just have to keep pushing to get better.”

Reinhart is trying hard not to think too far ahead, but he realizes there’s a possibility that his NHL debut could be just around the corner. While nerves play a role in virtually every player’s first game, the cool-headed defenseman is confident he’ll be ready.

“Fortunately I’ve played in some really important games internationally and in junior,” Reinhart said. “I've done pretty well at keeping a calm demeanor so I think I'm as well-prepared as I can be for when [my debut] comes.”

The Islanders have full practices Wednesday and Thursday before heading to Newark to take on the Devils Friday.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 61 40 16 5 167 135 85
2 NYI 63 41 20 2 202 174 84
3 NYR 60 38 16 6 190 148 82
4 TBL 63 38 19 6 207 167 82
5 DET 60 34 15 11 176 156 79
6 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
7 WSH 63 33 20 10 184 159 76
8 BOS 61 30 22 9 161 160 69
9 FLA 61 26 22 13 145 172 65
10 PHI 62 26 25 11 164 181 63
11 OTT 59 26 23 10 167 161 62
12 NJD 62 25 27 10 139 164 60
13 CBJ 60 26 30 4 157 189 56
14 TOR 61 25 31 5 170 185 55
15 CAR 60 23 30 7 137 159 53
16 BUF 62 19 38 5 120 207 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 63 29 35 4 64
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 63 14 26 21 40
B. Nelson 63 17 19 6 36
F. Nielsen 63 11 25 12 36
A. Lee 57 20 12 12 32
J. Bailey 51 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 53 7 22 15 29
N. Leddy 63 8 17 14 25
T. Hamonic 53 4 20 16 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 33 13 0 .911 2.46
C. Johnson 8 7 1 .890 2.95

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