KANATA, Ont. - Calvin de Haan didn't figure on being in this building this season, barely 10 minutes from his hometown.
De Haan not only played for the first time at the Canadian Tire Centre Wednesday night, he went out in his usual spot as a first-pair defenseman alongside Travis Hamonic. The 22-year-old from the neighboring town of Carp has been the biggest surprise -- the good kind -- of this Islanders season, logging major minutes against every team's top line after playing just three AHL games a season ago becaise of a second major shoulder surgery.
"I expected to be in the minors all season, to tell you the truth, but they saw something in what I was doing [in Bridgeport] and I got the opportunity," de Haan said before the Islanders' 2-1 win over the Senators. "Hopefully my minor-league days are over and I can stick here."
The way de Haan has played, he doesn't need to hope too much. After early injuries to Lubomir Visnovsky and Brian Strait, the Islanders needed extra help from their defensive depth. After Matt Donovan and Aaron Ness struggled, de Haan came up just after Thanksgiving and played 20:07 in his NHL debut against the Caps.
He's played fewer than 20 minutes in just 15 of his 49 games entering the game, none since before the Olympic break. De Haan has gotten more power play time in addition to his even-strength and penalty-kill duties and the coaching staff has no worries about their surprise top pair player. He logged 21:52 Wednesday night.
"You have to give guys an opportunity and Calvin has earned what he's gotten since then," Jack Capuano said. "He understands the concept of how we want to play. He makes mistakes as all young guys do, but he understands what gets him into trouble."
Capuano credited de Haan with improving his physical play over his 50 NHL games and de Haan himself feels he's begun to add more offense -- his 15 points are third among Isles defensemen.
"When I came up at first, I think I was a little afraid to make a mistake," de Haan said. "I'm getting more comfortable and it's easier to play the way I want to play."
De Haan's combined 67 games between Bridgeport and the Isles this season is more than he's played since his first junior season back in 2008-09.
"It's not like I haven't had healthy seasons before," de Haan said. "People think I've missed four of five seasons or something. I feel healthy and there are no problems."
Notes & quotes: Casey Cizikas' power-play goal with 10:29 left broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Islanders to their sixth straight game without a regulation loss (5-0-1). Anders Nilsson made 35 saves and Josh Bailey had a goal and assist for the second straight night.