Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets plays the puck...

Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets plays the puck in the first period against Brock Nelson of the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. (Oct. 5, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Jack Capuano was perhaps most pleased with the opening-night play of his two rookies, Brock Nelson and Matt Donovan.

He publicly and privately had told both players not to play it safe in the game, and both took that advice to heart Friday night in Newark.

"It definitely helps," said Nelson, who played a smart game and made a terrific cross-ice feed to Pierre-Marc Bouchard that required a big save from Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. "You hear that from your coach and you can play with confidence. He's been saying it to me since camp began, and I feel like the last few games I've been able to do more of that."

Donovan felt good about his game, which included his first NHL point after his feed to Michael Grabner led to Frans Nielsen's go-ahead goal early in the third.

"[Capuano] put that into my head that we needed to play fast and jump up when we could, and I think I did that," Donovan said.

The 23-year-old defenseman played the final three games during the 2011-12 season after the Isles had been eliminated from playoff contention. Earning a spot out of training camp this season was a much different experience.

"There's more of a feeling that I know I can play with these guys," he said. "I'm still not comfortable and I have to keep earning my spot, but I felt a lot more confident."

Nabokov gets call againCapuano kept his lineup the same from Friday's opening shootout victory, giving Evgeni Nabokov starts on consecutive nights.

"Talking with [goaltending coach Mike Dunham], Nabby feels good, he feels strong," Capuano said. "We'll monitor the situation as we go."

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