Donato finding firmer footing after Sharks' first two games

Sharks' Ryan Donato

Ryan Donato's first goal with the Sharks was unlike any he had scored in just over two years.

Donato's power-play tally in the first period of San Jose's loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday was his first since Dec. 23, 2018. Ninety-five games and two trades passed between the fifth and sixth power-play goals of his career, though not necessarily through any fault of his own.

"To be honest with you, I always think it's been a part of my game," Donato said of scoring on the man advantage, during a postgame video conference with reporters. "I just think it's been a matter of opportunity. I'm lucky to be a part of this team and get the chance, and hopefully I can continue to prove I deserve those chances."

The Sharks traded for Donato last October, with the hope that a fresh start and a change of scenery could bring out the best in the 24-year-old. Through the first two games, Donato appears to be on far firmer footing than he was with the Minnesota Wild before coming to San Jose.

It's not just on the power play, where Donato is averaging more ice time (2:22) than any season since his NHL debut at the end of 2017-18. Alongside rookie center Noah Gregor and veteran winger Matt Nieto, Donato has been part of the Sharks' speedy third line.

The Sharks out-attempted (20-14) and out-chanced (10-8) the Coyotes in the first two games when San Jose's third line was on the ice, according to Natural Stat Trick. The trio was outscored 2-0, although the disparity was owed more to an .818 on-ice save percentage rather than their play.


Coach Bob Boughner showed he trusts Donato, too. With the Sharks chasing the game in the third period Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes, Donato's line stayed together as Boughner shortened his bench.

"I think we got our feet moving a little bit more [Saturday]," Donato said. "Last game, I think we were kind of a little bit too reserved, waiting for the game to come to us instead of attacking it. I think we did a better job of getting more pucks to the net and creating some traffic."

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Donato's still getting used to new teammates and a new environment, all in surroundings far from the Sharks' permanent home. San Jose held training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz. due to restrictions on contact sports in Santa Clara County, a result of the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Sharks have (at least) six more road games before they're scheduled to play their first game at SAP Center on Feb. 1, but it's not yet clear if they'll be able to play in San Jose by then.

Still, Donato's trying to make the most of his time with his new team.

"I came in with an open mind and wanted to get to know the guys," Donato said. "Obviously it's a little different with social distancing, but I think for me it's been a little bit of a blessing in disguise, coming here early and getting to know the guys. Hopefully that creates a bond we can use to our advantage when other teams don't have that."

And if all goes well, Donato will keep getting those power-play chances, too.