DENVER -- Andrew MacDonald hit a small milestone this week. He practiced two days in a row, the first time he's done that since he underwent arthroscopic hip surgery the first week of April.
That's not exactly huge news, especially given that he hasn't missed any of the Islanders' 13 games, including Thursday night's against the Avalanche.
MacDonald teams with Travis Hamonic to form the Islanders' only real matchup defense pair, sent out regularly against the opponent's top line. MacDonald still is working out some kinks in the burgeoning game he showed off last season.
"It can get frustrating at times, not being on the ice whenever I'd like," said MacDonald, who has missed days of practice throughout training camp and the regular season. "I wouldn't say it's been hampering me. It's more getting down the timing of things, being in game situations, and that might still be coming even if I practiced every day."
MacDonald's numbers haven't been pretty, much like the rest of the team. His minus-6 entering Thursday night's game was worst on the team and reflective of how much he's played -- his 22:29 of ice time per game is second only to Mark Streit.
He also has only one goal, a power-play tally in a 2-1 win over the Wild Oct. 10. The seven Islanders defensemen who have played this season have totaled only two goals and 13 assists, with a goal and seven of those assists coming from Streit.
"There's definitely opportunities to be that fourth man joining the rush, and it's invaluable if you can do it wave after wave with any of your D," said Mike Mottau, who returned to the lineup after sitting for five games.
MacDonald showed promising offense last season, going 4-23-27 in 60 games, tops in scoring among the Isles' numerous defensemen. After four pro seasons bouncing between Bridgeport and the Islanders, MacDonald seemed to find a home in the bigs and a partner in Hamonic, the physical teenager who played beyond his years.
As a go-to pair this season, there have been a few bumps. "When you play against top guys in this league, they're going to get chances. Travis and I talk about that a lot," MacDonald said. "It's been good, knowing I'll be with a certain guy every time out, even though that could change. We've got to work through it as a team."
Jack Capuano coached MacDonald in Bridgeport and with the Islanders, so he has no reservations about using him even without much practice time.
"Any time you come off a surgery like he had, it takes a little bit of game time to get back to where you were," Capuano said. "A-Mac's playing real well, even if the numbers don't show it."