BOSTON -- It was clear in Ryan Donato’s voice that it was important for him to get called back up to Boston and play against the Islanders on the night Rick Middleton’s No. 16 jersey was retired. Nifty was, after all, the favorite player of Donato’s father Ted, an ex-Bruin himself, and was at least part of the reason that the younger Donato had always wanted to wear the same No. 16.
So it must have been the work of the hockey gods that Ryan Donato returned from Providence for Thursday night's game and scored the game-winner in Boston’s 2-1 shootout win over the Isles at TD Garden. It was a beautiful double-move that allowed Donato, the fourth shooter for the B's, to slide a backhanded bid around the leg pad of Robin Lehner.
“That’s awesome." said Donato. "[My] dad was showing me some YouTube highlights of Nifty; he was his favorite player. So I knew if it was my dad’s favorite player that it meant a lot to him that I was able to play in this game. It was really cool to be a part of that."
The shootout move was a great example of Donato’s one-on-one skills with the puck and his overall offensive acumen, but it was the young winger’s two-way game that impressed Bruce Cassidy.
“It was big<" said Donato. "You want to make sure that you have an immediate impact on the game, show the coaches and the staff that you developed in your time [in the minors] and I tried to do that to the best of my abilities. And hopefully I proved that to them today.”
“He was clean,” said Cassidy. “He wanted to get pucks to the net, wanted to manage his game, his shift length, his details, and I thought he did that. I don’t think I ever got him in a rhythm during the game. We shortened the bench at times. It was nothing to do with his play; it was just in those tight games we want to make sure that we managed it well. The time he did get I thought he used to his advantage.
“He’s going to have to play defense if he’s going to play here. Especially right now (with the Bruins shorthanded because of a raft of injuries), we’re winning a lot of close games, so that’s fine. We’re not trying to coach the skill out of him, by any means, but we just want to make sure that it’s okay if he airs on the side of caution right now. I think his natural instincts will take over offensively. I’m not concerned about that. He’ll find his way in that part of it.”
It was a good start for Donato, with four shot attempts in 10:41 of ice time and some aggressive offensive action even before he scored the shootout game-winner. Now he just needs to build on that high-impact return and start scoring with a little more regularity for a Bruins team that needs all the offense it can muster right about now.
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