Alain Vigneault gives Michael Del Zotto another chance

Michael Del Zotto chases the puck ahead of

Michael Del Zotto chases the puck ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes' Jiri Tlusty in the third period of a game at Madison Square Garden. (Nov. 2, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Among the levers at Alain Vigneault's disposal, as the Rangers lurch into Dallas Thursday night with a 10-11 record, is the Michael Del Zotto refresh button.

Vigneault on Wednesday confirmed that Del Zotto will be back in uniform after having been assigned the worst seat in the house the last three games as a healthy scratch.

A former first-round pick, the 23-year-old Del Zotto said after Tuesday morning's pregame skate that he had not been given any reason for having to experience the old peacock-to-feather-duster truth of competitive sports. But Vigneault made it quite clear Wednesday that Del Zotto simply had not lived up to expectations.

"I'd been told," the first-year Rangers coach said, "that his strengths are his ability to beat the forecheck, join in the rush, help out on the power play and get his shots through. I've not seen that on a consistent enough basis for him to be able to say he's going to be in the lineup every night."

Del Zotto (one goal, three assists) was benched in favor of career fill-in Justin Falk, whom Vigneault described as an entirely "different type of defenseman. One [Del Zotto] is supposed to be an offensive type and the other's a tough, stay-at-home, technique guy."

Using Falk, then, was simply a function of fielding his best possible lineup, Vigneault said, so Del Zotto's benching was not punitive.

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"I can only go by what I've seen and what my coaches are seeing," Vigneault said. "What I've seen [from Del Zotto], I probably would've had the exact same conversation about [forward Mats] Zuccarello before I sat him.

"I had been told that [Zuccarello] had been offensive and I hadn't seen it. All of a sudden, he sits out a game and when he gets another opportunity, he jumps on it."

Zuccarello was scoreless in his first seven games but has 10 points in 13 games since being scratched Oct. 24. During Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Boston, Zuccarello repeatedly created offensive chances and had five shots on goal.

"So I'm hoping," Vigneault said, "that the next time I'm talking about Michael, I'm saying, 'Yes, I've seen it. I've seen him beat the forecheck, join the rush, get his shots through, and that's why he's in the lineup; that's why his minutes are up.'

"So, we'll see how he responds and we'll go from there."

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