MacDonald Leading Pack By Example
November 26, 2003
By BRUCE BERLET, Courant Staff Writer
Jason MacDonald has proved his worth to the Wolf Pack even in the worst of times.
Coach Ryan McGill was understandably miffed after a 5-2 loss in Manchester, N.H., Nov. 14. But the "highlight" clip he showed the next day included the veteran wing making a strong play on the boards, chipping the puck out of the zone, driving to the net and converting Garth Murray's pass.
"It was a blowout and we didn't play well, but the coach could still show a film of Mac because that's the way he plays every night, regardless of the score or the building," Wolf Pack captain Ken Gernander said. "He's a competitive and honest guy who doesn't take any short cuts and is disciplined in terms of games and systems.
"You can always rely on him, so it's a stabilizing thing for the other four guys he's playing with because he does all the things asked of him."
The list includes: make the simple play, play strong on the wall, kill penalties, stand in front of the net to create traffic and stick up for himself and teammates. In a 3-3 tie with Providence Saturday, MacDonald had a goal and an assist and got into a scuffle with Matt Herr after the Bruins forward cross-checked Paul Healey in the back after a whistle. MacDonald got four minutes for roughing to two for Herr, but he made his point: Cheap shots won't be tolerated.
"Mac hasn't changed his game from day one of training camp," McGill said, "and it almost appears the more the game is on the line, the greasier and grittier he gets."
Entering tonight's first-place showdown at the Civic Center with Manchester, which is on an 8-1-1-1 run since a 2-0 loss to the Wolf Pack Oct. 25, MacDonald has a team-high six goals, five assists, 62 penalty minutes and is plus-6 in 16 games. It's a heartening start for MacDonald, who said he had something to prove after last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
MacDonald, 29, was the team captain, but younger players got most of the ice time. He played about 50 games with a golf ball-sized cyst in his left shoulder, which caused numbness in his arm.
"Some mornings I couldn't open the door of my car," he said.
Doctors told MacDonald he needed a muscle repaired, but after an MRI he had the cyst removed in early February and didn't return until the final two weeks of the season. He finished with four goals, seven assists and 137 penalty minutes. It was a far cry from his two 20-goal seasons in the late 1990s, and his 17 goals in 2000-01, when the Penguins lost in the Calder Cup finals.
But the Wolf Pack recognized MacDonald's experience, passion and leadership, and signed him to an AHL contract Aug. 28.
"Jason is not only a character person, but he's hard to play against," general manager Jim Schoenfeld said.
Lawson recalled: Wing Lucas Lawson was recalled from Charlotte of the ECHL. He had one assist in four games before being assigned to Charlotte, where he was the leading scorer with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 games.