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A Slump to a Scratch for Michael Del Zotto

Posted By Margaret DeJesus On Dec 9 2010 @ 2:18 pm In New York Rangers | No Comments

Coach John Tortorella can’t afford to wait for rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto to snap out of his sophomore slump. It’s time to send a message, and frankly it should have been done sooner.

When the Rangers face the Ottawa Senators, Del Zotto will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his short NHL career.

The giveaways galore and lackluster play have haunted the 20-year-old first round draft pick of 2008 of late. It’s time to shake things up and to see if Matt Gilroy can claim a spot on this roster, although he is still most likely on the trade chopping block. If anything, some more playing time will increase Gilroy’s value. Another plus, he’ll finally get to play on his natural left side with Michael Sauer.

Del Zotto seemed to slip onto the roster rather easily as an offensive defenseman last season but his statistics weren’t all that impressive on the D side of things. He finished with a minus 20 rating but 37 points in 80 games, second in scoring among rookie defensemen.

He was a minus four in the Rangers dreadful performance against the Colorado Avalanche last month and has since bumped along rather inconsistently, mirroring his team’s play. Good days, bad days, with sprinkled in giveaways. He’s not the force he once was on the powerplay last season. None of the Rangers defensemen have really done anything to write home about except for maybe shot blocking stable force Dan Girardi while Marc Staal has steadily upped his offensive game.

The Rangers need to come out strong against the Senators tonight, unlike the flat, lifeless showing on Sunday. Another lineup shake may be the trick until Tortorella can find a center to click with the struggling sniper Marian Gaborik. Derek Stepan and Ruslan Fedotenko will get a crack at the first line tonight.

Henrik Lundqvist will get the start against Brian Elliot.

On the plus side: Del Zotto helped launch a free instructional indoor hockey program to serve 500 New York City youth at Parks’ recreation centers this winter.  The New York Rangers [1] and the NYC Parks Youth Street Hockey partnership with Live Positively, Coca-Cola, will run clinics for eight weeks at ten recreation centers across Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. The hockey clinics will focus on the fundamentals of the sport and living a healthy, active lifestyle.

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[1] New York Rangers: http://rangers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=545669

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