BRIDGEPORT -- They won't start the lockout-shortened season in the NHL, but Nino Niederreiter and Matt Donovan are instead AHL all-stars.
Niederreiter, seventh in the AHL going into Friday with 36 points, and Donovan, an all-rookie team pick last year, will represent the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in Providence, R.I., on Jan. 27-28.
Friday, they seemed most happy for each other.
"(Donovan) deserves it," Niederreiter said. "He's playing extremely well for us in a lot of minutes."
Donovan called Niederreiter deserving, too.
"He's getting better every day, and obviously his play shows that. He's been our best player all year," Donovan said. "The big thing for him, too, is he's looking to make the jump, finding his confidence, and hopefully it'll boost our game to the next level."
Each team has at least one representative. It's the sixth time in 12 years Bridgeport has had more than one.
Oklahoma City's is Milford's Mark Arcobello, a former standout at Fairfield Prep and Yale. Milwaukee's is Victor Bartley, the former Sound Tiger, who made the Nashville Predators' opening-day roster Friday.
For Niederreiter, it's added reward for his production, bouncing back after a 19-year-old season in the NHL that never really got on track.
"We're rounding out his overall game, doing it the right way," Bridgeport coach Scott Pellerin said. "He's determined, and he's being a good pro. It's another step in the right direction."
He has 19 goals and 17 assists in 38 games this year, but the Islanders went a different direction for their opening-night roster after the NHL lockout.
"I'm happy I can go (to Providence)," Niederreiter said. "I'd like to have a chance to play in the NHL, but there are things I can't control. I'll do the best I can."
Donovan's second pro season began curiously, with a tough night in Hartford, then a healthy scratch the next night. He has 19 points in 37 games.
"I've been getting better every day, but consistency needs to be there," Donovan said. "I've been doing video with the coaches, talking with the coaches."
There's obviously something there: He earned a late-season NHL call-up last year and scored 45 points for Bridgeport.
"Dono had a lot of success last season," Pellerin said. "We tightened his game up early in the season. ... Overall he's playing more of his game. He's taken some big steps the last little while."
They're part of a full roster as the Sound Tigers prepare for home games against Binghamton Saturday and Springfield Sunday. Matt Watkins, Max MacKay and Marc Cantin all took the full practice Friday as they work to return from injuries of assorted severity. Pellerin said Kirill Kabanov, out since taking a skate to the wrist Oct. 26, could be cleared for contact Monday.
email@example.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.connpost.com/fornabaio