Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:UNIONDALE, N.Y. — If Matt Donovan and Brock Nelson have been having any trouble adjusting to the NHL, it sure didn’t show in Friday night’s 6-4 win over the Nashville Predators.
Both players saw upwards of 16 minutes of ice time during the game and they made the most of it. Donovan recored his first goal of the preseason at the 12:44 mark of the second period and Nelson put up two assists, including one on Donovan’s goal.
The goal was set up by Nelson who circled around the net and waited to find the best angle before taking his shot. The shot deflected off Donovan and went in.
“It wasn’t much of a skilled goal,” Donovan said after the game. “I was kind of just going to the net and it kind of nicked off of me. I mean it lifts a little pressure off of you. I mean once you get that first one it feels like it is a little easier out there.”
But it wasn’t simply just that Donovan recorded a goal or that Nelson had two assists that made them stand outs Friday night. No, it was their prowess on the ice and their comfort level that left a lot of people impressed.
Going back to the second period goal by Donovan, it was really an example of Nelson’s ability to create scoring chances. It was similar to how he set up the goal for Colin McDonald earlier in the period. His patience, and a little bit of luck, helped create both scoring opportunities.
“I try to implement that every now and then,”Nelson said when asked about his patience on the ice. “When the chance came I think I was able to capitalize. I think I got a little luck and hit a stick and it went right to [Colin McDonald's] stick and he was able to tap it in. Sometimes it’s good to be lucky.
Also on display against Nashville was the ease both players have had in fitting in on the Islanders NHL squad. Yes, both Donovan and Nelson have played at least one game in the NHL before this year, but that doesn’t always mean they have an edge over another player who hasn’t. However Donovan and Nelson haven’t missed a beat in a practice or game.
Donovan, the 23-year-old Oklahoma native, said he’s had some nerves every game due to his lack of NHL experience, though he seems to hide those nerves well. “I’m just getting over the nerves the first couple of shifts. I think I’m getting more comfortable as the preseason goes on,” he said.
Nelson, who like Donovan has had a lot of expectations put on him this year in camp, has been just trying to go every game and play mistake free hockey.
“I think I just wanted to go out there and play and relax,” Nelson said. “Not worry too much about making mistakes. I think I was able to do that and our line was able to generate some chances. I think we had a lot of momentum going our way, so I think that helped.”
And their strong performance against Nashville did not go unnoticed by head coach Jack Capuano either. He lauded their efforts during his post game press conference.
“I thought Donovan on the back end really showed his offensive ability,” Capuano started off saying. “I love the fact that he activated a lot tonight and moved the puck well. I thought Brock played well. I moved Brock around a little bit tonight. I actually gave him a few shifts with [John Tavares's] line and he was on the ice the one goal they scored with Donovan. I was pleased with the young guys and the way they competed tonight.”