-- When Andrew MacDonald
injured his hand in Tampa Bay on Oct. 21, never in a million years did he think he'd sit and watch his team lose the next 14 games without him.
But that was exactly what happened to the New York Islanders
, who suffered through an 0-11-3 skid before beating the New Jersey Devils
at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum last Friday. The Isles will look to make it two in a row on Thursday night, when they begin a home-and-home series with the New York Rangers
at the Coliseum.
"It's bad enough sitting out for six weeks, but if the team's winning, you're happy," MacDonald told NHL.com. "You come in and we lose the amount of games that we lost, everyone's kind of down. It really was tough to watch. But we got a big win our last game. We're just building off that and going forward."
Going forward, the Islanders will finally have MacDonald back in the lineup. The solid two-way defenseman practiced with the team on Wednesday at the Coliseum and will be in the lineup against the Blueshirts.
"I'm really looking forward to it ... I know what to expect," said MacDonald, who was averaging 19:05 of ice time per game prior to the injury that sidelined him for approximately six weeks. "Considering it's a home-and-home, both teams are going to try to set the tone for the next night, too. It's going to be great."
A sixth-round selection (No. 16) at the 2006 Entry Draft, MacDonald will play his first NHL game with Jack Capuano
as his bench boss on Thursday. The two were together at AHL Bridgeport when MacDonald played there for parts of the past three seasons. Capuano replaced Scott Gordon
on an interim basis on Nov. 15 after the Isles returned from a winless three-game road trip in California.
"I had two years with Jack in Bridgeport and I know what his systems are all about and what he expects from his players," said MacDonald, who will be paired with James Wisniewski
on Thursday night. "Everyone's buying into it. It's good to have some familiarity, especially coming back from an injury."
While some may be surprised by how quickly MacDonald ascended to the NHL level -- it was less than three years ago when the Nova Scotia native was playing in the ECHL -- Capuano certainly is not. The Isles interim coach was especially impressed by MacDonald's character when he had the 24-year-old in Bridgeport.
"He's a guy that's going to play 20-plus minutes," Capuano said. "He's really going to help us out on the power play with his distribution of the puck and his shot. Anytime that you're focused and determined the way Andrew is as a player and as a person, it doesn't surprise me that he's played real well at this level."
His hand fully healed, MacDonald will now be provided every opportunity to once again flourish under Capuano. And with captain Doug Weight
out due to back spasms, MacDonald will likely quarterback a power play that hasn't scored in its last 31 opportunities, a span of eight games.
"It's great getting touches out there on the power play," MacDonald said. "It gets a player in the game. It's a good opportunity for me. I'm going to do my best to take advantage of it."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL