FLYERS (8-9-2) at ISLANDERS (14-6-0)
TV: TCN-PH, MSG+
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald has gotten ready to play hockey at Nassau Coliseum hundreds of time over the course of his career. But on Monday, he'll be doing it in the visitor's dressing room for the first time.
MacDonald, who played 295 games over six seasons with the New York Islanders before being traded to Philadelphia last March, will face his former team for the first time Monday.
"It's going to be different obviously, first time back and everything," MacDonald said. "But I think both sides have moved on. It's been quite a bit of time since I left now. For us, we're just worried about playing well and getting two points."
A sixth-round draft pick by the Islanders (No. 160) in 2006, MacDonald worked his way up in the organization to become a reliable, puck-moving defenseman. But with his contract set to expire last summer and the sides unable to reach an agreement on a long-term extension, MacDonald was traded to the Flyers on March 4 for two draft picks.
On Monday, he admitted it was weighing on him as last season's trade deadline approached.
"I think anytime you're in a position where you're in a place and you want to stay, it kind of looks like the writing's on the wall and you're going to get moved, it takes its toll on you," MacDonald said. "But that's part of being a professional hockey player and being an athlete. You have to realize that something's going to happen.
"I made a lot of good friends and a lot of great connections through the organization. They gave me my opportunity and I was grateful for that. Things didn't work out in the end, but I think both sides have moved on. We're on opposite sides now."
Even though things didn't work in New York, MacDonald's former colleagues are happy to see him doing well. MacDonald signed a six-year contract with the Flyers on April 15 worth $30 million. He sustained a lower-body injury earlier this season that kept him out of action for about a month, but he returned to the lineup last Thursday and is expected to be one of Philadelphia's top defensemen, much like he was for the Islanders.
"He and I were together for a long time," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "When guys move on, no different than [Matt] Moulson or [PA] Parenteau or [MacDonald] or Mark Streit for that matter, you want them to have success and move on. They were loyal soldiers for us, they worked extremely hard, they were great to coach, they're great people and you want to see them have success. I'm glad that A-Mac got what we got."
"He's probably one of the best, if not the best teammate I've ever played with," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "He was a defensive partner for a long time, but it's a pleasure just to be a friend and have him and his girlfriend in my family's life. He's a guy that skates well, he moves the puck well. He's going to battle through everything he's got to battle through to play hard. He's just one of those guys you really want on your team. It'll be fun, but I'm sure I'll try to get a couple of friendly jabs out there if I get a chance."
It will be up to MacDonald and the rest of the Flyers to try to slow down the Islanders, who have 14 wins in their first 20 games and are currently tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Metropolitan Division. New York has won three in a row, including back-to-back wins against the Penguins over the weekend.
"I think everyone's taken notice of that," MacDonald said of the Islanders' impressive start. "Things didn't really go as planned last year from the year before making the playoffs. Now they're right up there again so obviously they're having some success. Everyone's kind of taken notice of that. But for us in this room, we just try to take care of our own business."
Here are the projected lineups:
Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds
R.J. Umberger - Scott Laughton - Vincent Lecavalier
Zac Rinaldo - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Nicklas Grossmann - Mark Streit
Nick Schultz - Braydon Coburn
Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn
Michael Del Zotto
Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Jason Akeson
Injured: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots), Michael Raffl (lower body), Chris VandeVelde (lower body)
Nikolay Kulemin – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey – Frans Nielsen - Mikhail Grabovski
Anders Lee - Ryan Strome – Brock Nelson
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky
Scratched: Cory Conacher, Matt Donovan, Brian Strait
Injured: Eric Boulton (lower body), Matt Carkner (back), Michael Grabner (lower body)
Status report: Grabner skated after the Islanders completed their morning workout and is inching closer towards making his season debut. "He's doing real well," Capuano said. "We want to make sure that he's 100 percent. We've got bodies here, we're healthy, we don't want to put him in a situation where he can re-tweak something or have a setback, so we're just going to keep skating him and over the next couple of days we'll have a better idea."
Who's hot: Voracek has three assists in the past two games and leads the NHL with 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists). He has 10 multi-point games this season. Left wing Brayden Schenn had a goal in a 4-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. He has a point in 10 of his past 12 games. … After going 25 games without a goal dating back to last season, Martin has goals in back-to-back games. Halak has won six straight starts.