Colin McDonald needed a week back in October to get his mind right again.
Upon learning he'd been waived by the Islanders on Oct. 22 after playing in two of the first six games, McDonald went willingly to Bridgeport when he cleared waivers, then took a few days to gather himself.
"It was disappointing," McDonald said. "But I brought a lot of confidence with me. I was playing 20 minutes a night, playing a little more of a scorer role. I was just hoping the guys here didn't forget about me."
It was a situation McDonald had hoped he'd left behind. A 2003 second-round pick of the Oilers, he'd had five full AHL seasons and just seven NHL games before he signed a two-way contract with the Isles before the lockout of 2012-13. As captain of the Sound Tigers, he had a solid half-season and earned a spot on the big club out of the shortened training camp in January.
Playing with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin, McDonald made a decent impact in that playoff year; enough of an impact to earn a two-year, $1.2-million deal, his first one-way contract as a pro.
But as the roster matured and expanded this past offseason, McDonald's standing became shaky. Anders Lee started this season in Bridgeport as he had waiver-exempt status, but he was destined to return. It came at McDonald's expense.
Now, the 30-year-old McDonald has fought his way back to the NHL a second time and he seems quite determined to make it a tougher call to send him back. He has goals in both games he's played since his recall, meshing well again with Martin and Cizikas, who scored the winner on Tuesday off a diving feed from McDonald.
"It was definitely tough watching the team this season, seeing them play so well, the chants, the packed crowds at the Coliseum," McDonald said. "It's obviously exciting to have this chance again."
However long it lasts. Cal Clutterbuck practiced fully Wednesday and appears ready to play in Thursday's game against the Leafs. Harry Zolnierczyk, another veteran, likely will be returned to Bridgeport before McDonald, but Michael Grabner could be ready to come off injured reserve soon, which would force the Islanders to make a decision on McDonald.
It's one he's prepared for. McDonald roomed with John Tavares on Long Island last season, an unlikely but endearing pairing. Tavares said his friend's room is empty, waiting for McDonald if he wants it, but McDonald is in more temporary digs with nothing assured beyond Thursday.
"We definitely need guys like him," Tavares said. "He's a proven NHLer and he's shown the last couple games that he knows what to do when he's here."