Boston Bruins

It’s been 30 days — and 10 games in the American Hockey League — since Ryan Donato last donned skated on NHL ice. But the highly-touted second-generation Bruin will make his return to the Boston lineup on Thursday night when the New York Islanders come to town, and with renewed confidence and eagerness in his own game.

“It’s been a little while,” said Donato. “Hopefully I’ll get some opportunities and hopefully I’ll do well with them.”

The 22-year-old’s change in attitude certainly seems bolstered by what was a successful trip to the P-Bruins — even if it did come with some missing teeth for the Scituate, Mass. native — with five goals and nine points in 10 games for Providence. Donato also got his heavy shot back on track, too, with 34 shots over that 10-game stretch in the minors after having landed just 12 shots on net during his 11-game run with the Big B’s to begin the season.

Donato’s return to TD Garden will not come with an immediate top six role, though, as he’ll instead skate on a rather strange third line featuring Donato to the left of center Joakim Nordstrom and right winger Noel Acciari.

“The third line’s a little different personality,” Cassidy admitted of his unconventional-looking third line at Thursday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “[Nordstrom] back in the middle, Donato’s more of a scorer, Acciari — more energy, physical. We’ll see how it plays out. It kind of shook out that way. We didn’t want to mess too much with the fourth line.”

But that doesn’t mean Donato will be asked to play a grind-it-out role that doesn’t utilize his effective offensive touch around the net, as Cassidy will do his part to get the high-skill talent on the ice for man-advantage situations.

“He’ll get some power-play time,” Cassidy said of Donato. “Let’s see how he plays first before we adjust our lines.

“That’s kind of our thinking.”

The Bruins will give the start to Tuukka Rask.

Rask stopped 31-of-33 in a win over the Montreal Canadiens last Saturday, and has stopped all but six of 97 shots thrown his way since returning to the team from his leave of absence. Rask has 12 wins and a .930 save percentage in 18 career games against the Islanders.

New York is expected to counter with Robin Lehner. The 6-foot-4 Lehner has four wins and a .906 save percentage in 10 decisions this season, and allowed five goals on 27 shots in his last outing, a 5-0 loss to the Rangers on Nov. 21.

This is the first of three meetings between the Bruins and Islanders this season. The Bruins swept last year’s season series, and outscored the Isles 13-4 over that three-game stretch.

Here are the complete expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Colby Cave – David Pastrnak

Danton Heinen – David Krejci – Jake DeBrusk

Ryan Donato – Joakim Nordstrom – Noel Acciari

Chris Wagner – Sean Kuraly – David Backes

Torey Krug – Connor Clifton

John Moore – Steven Kampfer

Jeremy Lauzon – Matt Grzelcyk

Tuukka Rask