As reported by Arthur Staple, the Islanders beat writer for Newsday, Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic are slated to reunite on the Islanders blue-line for tonight’s preseason matchup at the Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders top defensive pairing during the lockout-shortened 2013 season has been separated up to this point of training camp – Hamonic has been playing next to Brian Strait, and MacDonald next to Matt Donovan – but head coach Jack Capuano seems to have had a change of heart.
The original decision to separate the two was surprising and probably a bit disheartening for MacDonald, who is entering the final year of his bargain-contract. Neither Hamonic nor MacDonald seemed particularly excited about the split-up – a decision made off of advanced statistics – and Staple presumed MacDonald’s being against it partially stemmed from the fact that this is a contract year for him, so “the more quality minutes for him the better.”
Alongside Hamonic, AMac created a name for himself as one of the game’s best shot blockers, finishing the year with 123 blocked shots through 48 games, tied for third amongst all players in the NHL. The duo of Hamonic and MacDonald also finished with the most combined blocked shots for any pairing in the league – Hamonic contributed 109 more of them.
After four seasons playing for close to the league minimum, MacDonald is due for a raise. There is no guarantee that MacDonald will be on Long Island past this year, but he will be a crucial piece to the team’s immediate success. While the pairings could once again change before the start of the 2013-14 campaign, Isles fans can rest easy knowing the team’s best defensive pairing in 2013 should be on the ice together.