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Islanders vs. Devils Gameday: Matt Donovan Joins the D-ebutant Ball

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While waiting for the next wave of prospects to emerge, the New York Islanders have fielded several veteran defensemen on expiring contracts this season. By and large, those veterans like Mike Mottau (now in Boston), Milan Jurcina, Mark Eaton and Steve Staios have been part of the squad's weakness.

Alas, rare is the Travis Hamonic who arrives ready for a full NHL season before he's of legal imbibing age. Today Matt Donovan is will follow Calvin de Haan and Aaron Ness in dipping his toe in for an NHL debut.

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Islanders (33-35-11, 14th/E) @ Devils (45-28-6, 5th/E, #6)
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+/2 (
twice the plus!) | Audio: NHL -
Soon-to-be Netless] Center
Waiting for Florida:
In Lou We Trust

De Haan's debut at age 20 was brief but reassuring. Ness' at age 21 lasted eight games and also featured no points but was quite smooth. Now Donovan (age 21) steps in and could very well be the most impressive of the three.

A common expectation was that one might have earned a more lasting promotion, and sooner. Now many will assume one or two of them will have spots in the NHL next season. Which would be good news, but also carry its own risk: Counting on two or even three young rookie defensemen to carry the load can carry its own pitfalls.

Donovan has been outstanding for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, particularly during their second-half surge, and his 42 points on 10 goals and 32 assists has him third in scoring. The Isles note he is fourth in scoring among AHL defensemen. Granted, that production is helped by his playing 69 games -- more than anyone else on the Bridgeport roster -- but he shows up in highlights and critical moments with increasing frequency.

No telling how ready he is for full-time NHL work, but this brief look will give us a peek. Arthur Staple's tweet on the callup noted "a couple of vets banged up," so we'll see if this is a three-game or just a one-game thing. Bridgeport has home games this week Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and while a playoff spot looks very likely, the division title is still very much up in the air.

Lineup UPDATE:

Via the Isles: Al Montoya will be in net tonight. Donovan will make his #NHL debut paired with Dylan Reese. Staios and Jurcina scratched.

Isles Notes

Devils Notes

Johan Hedberg will get the start, and Tom Gulitti indicates Adam Larsson may be healthy scratched again. Interesting development there with the rookie defenseman who has been with them all season. Guess he won't be assisting on any Michael Grabner goals.

Last time the teams faced off, it was the third of three in one week, with Anders Nilsson standing on his head twice but then suffering a cruel, 15-second reversal of fortune.

This game doesn't mean much for the Devils. They're basically landlocked in the 6th seed, barring a collapse and Senators ascension. They'll be waiting to face the Southeast Division winner (most likely the Panthers), who of course will be the home team but have a weaker record than the Devils.

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