Donovan working hard to keep improving his game
Updated 12:12 am, Friday, April 19, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- Hockey players have constant video sessions with their coaches about game situations, defensive-zone play, special teams. In early February, Matt Donovan got a different kind of review.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers had taped practice, and Donovan got to watch himself in drills.
"It was kind of an eye-opener," the second-year defenseman said.
"I thought I was working hard. I was working hard, but there was a next step. It showed me that I needed to realize I could work that much harder."
Closing strong for the second year in a row, Donovan sits second in scoring among AHL defensemen, missing only the second game of the season as a healthy scratch, and working on getting better and more physical in his own end.
"His positional play has really improved," Bridgeport coach Scott Pellerin said. "I think his defensive habits -- whether it's body position, stick position -- and his compete level, those are areas within his game that he's improved."
Donovan knows that part of his game has to keep getting better to get him back to the New York Islanders, for whom he played three games last year to become the first Oklahoma-trained NHLer.
"I think the offense is there," Donovan said. "It's got to be defense first."
Donovan sits second in scoring among AHL defensemen in an odd statistical year. Justin Schultz, signed by Edmonton out of the University of Wisconsin as a free agent last summer, began his pro career in the AHL with Oklahoma City because of the NHL lockout. He scored 48 points in 34 games, a historical pace, before the NHL season began.
No defenseman has caught Schultz in the three months since. Donovan is closest with 46 (14 goals, 32 assists) going into the final three games, with Bridgeport clinging to slim playoff hopes.
Sami Vatanen, up with Anaheim, has 45 for Norfolk; two others have 44.
A goal Tuesday was Donovan's 25th for Bridgeport, breaking Bruno Gervais' team record for defensemen.
Pellerin said Donovan is growing as a leader as well. He wore an alternate captain's "A" for the first time April 9.
"He's got a great personality," Pellerin said. "He's funny. He's fun to be around. You can tell when he's in the room. He's a good teammate.
"He's got that side, and when it turns into gametime, he's a serious pro. You can do both."
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