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Plugged-in Donato has electricity

NEW YORK -- He has been back in Boston less than a month, but Bruins forward Ted Donato has been an impact player since being called up from Providence Dec. 5.

 

He has killed penalties, added energy to a lineup that desperately needed it, and of late has been playing the point on the power play. That unit was responsible for Boston's lone goal in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Carolina at the FleetCenter. It was the first score on the man advantage for the club in four games.

Tonight Donato and his teammates face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and he's hoping their play in the second half of the Carolina game will serve as a starting point to get out of their protracted slump.

"There's no doubt that we've been pressing and I think it kind of came to a head [Thursday in a 5-0 loss against Calgary]," said Donato. "In the first period, we had some good chances, but they come away [ahead,] 2-0, and I think we started to press. We got out of the things we wanted to do. [Against Carolina], we tried to stay with it. We kept yelling at each other on the bench, `Let's keep doing what we're doing and we'll get out of this.' We didn't, but we were damn close. I don't think there are any moral victories at this level, but I think we made a lot of steps that we can take into the next game."

Goals have been difficult to come by for the Bruins, who have just two victories in their last 14 outings (2-6-5-1). Some nights, they play a strong period or more and get chances. Other nights, they struggle offensively and in their end.

"A lot of it has to do with what we've given up," said Donato. "When you play from behind and play catchup hockey, it leads to a lot of opportunities for the other team and puts us behind the eight-ball. If we can come out with the effort we had in the second half [Saturday], we're going to be tough to play against. If we can get the power play going and hit on all cylinders, we can really get this thing turned around."

The players realize that the pressure has been building the last few weeks. Pointed comments from owner Jeremy Jacobs, president Harry Sinden, and general manager Mike O'Connell to the media have filtered down.

"There's no sense worrying about what you can't control," said Donato. "You can control how you play and the effort we bring every night. [Saturday] is a game where we kind of dug ourselves out of a hole. I think there were a lot of positives and it kind of reassured a lot of guys we're going to be all right if we play like that and that if we come out with some effort, we're going to win a lot of games."

Instead of tearing them apart, Donato said he's hoping the adversity will bring the players together.

"It can have a couple of effects," he said. "But the effect I feel it's going to have is that it'll force the unit to come together and build a shell around each other and focus on what we need to do. There are certain things we can't control, but we can control how we play. Maybe it's a rallying point for all of us to take advantage of the fact we like the guys in this room and we want to play together."

One aspect of the game that has let down the team is special teams. The power play has been erratic and the penalty killing has been ineffective too often. With Donato in the mix, it showed more spark against Carolina.

"As a unit, we've struggled, so you keep mixing it up to get something that works," said Donato. "That's not to say it's the same thing that will work three weeks from now. I thought there were a lot of positives. [Former Bruins assistant coach] Tom McVie used to say, `First, it has to look like a power play before it can start to score goals.' [Saturday], it looked like a power play."

Back when Donato, now 34, was starting his career with the Bruins, he would be out on the power play at times with Ray Bourque. He said some teams have used him there and others haven't.

"I've played it here and there," he said. "I feel comfortable back there."

Coach Mike Sullivan said Donato's experience and versatility were what made him decide to put him on the point.

"He's just a savvy player," said Sullivan. "As one of our assistant coaches said, `He has moxie back there.' He understands the game and he doesn't panic under duress. He has the ability to settle things down and we felt as though our power play needed that and we wanted to try and give him an opportunity there and we felt he did a great job."

The Bruins will have their hands full tonight.

"They're a changed team," said Donato of the Rangers. "They've played pretty well this year. They've still got all the star power and the offensive guys. It's going to be a case of not what we get but what we give up. If we play good and sound defensively, we'll get some opportunities."

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