Del Zotto is working on regaining confidence

The Rangers' Michael Del Zotto skates against the

The Rangers' Michael Del Zotto skates against the Islanders. (Dec. 3, 2010) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Michael Del Zotto is trying not to let bad games affect him. He had one in Philadelphia on Saturday, when he had two giveaways that led directly to Flyers goals in the third period of a 4-1 loss. But since he was a surprising healthy scratch 12 days ago in Ottawa, Del Zotto has been trying to regain his confidence without worrying about whether coach John Tortorella will sit him down again.

"The biggest thing [Saturday] was I didn't have my feet. I was focused on trying to make a lot of streak passes, not just making simple plays," said Del Zotto, who is always candid in his self-assessments. "I got locked into trying to make some big plays and didn't move my feet. Moving my feet is a big part of my game. I just have to get back to that."

Things came easily for Del Zotto as a rookie last season. It wasn't a wildly successful year, necessarily - his nine goals and 29 points were balanced by a minus-20 number that was eighth-worst in the league - but he fit in nicely and showed his vision and agility from day one after making the squad as a 19-year-old.

In his second season, he's been asked to do more, especially at even strength. As he's tried to make himself a better two-way defenseman, his offense has diminished to the point that Tortorella has replaced Del Zotto with Marc Staal on the top power-play unit.

"Because he's such a trier, he's almost trying too hard," Tortorella said. "At that position, you have to let the game come to you. I still think he's learning the definition of 'letting the game come to you.' "

Another healthy scratch seems to be a last resort, given the defensive makeup of the team: Del Zotto is one of two lefthanded shots, and Tortorella already has Steve Eminger playing on the off-side. Matt Gilroy has done it this season, but it's not Tortorella's first choice.

The coach said he and Del Zotto have had a couple of chats since Saturday, and there will be a video session Wednesday after a team day off Tuesday. As with everything having to do with one of the Rangers' young core players, the process includes plenty of bumps.

"Our responsibility as coaches is to teach," Tortorella said, "and their responsibility is to be receptive to that teaching and learn. It's not always about making the big play."

Notes & quotes: Derek Boogaard, who has missed the last four games with an injured shoulder, has been getting headaches during off-ice workouts and is being shut down indefinitely . . . Vinny Prospal, still a month away from a return from knee surgery, skated with his teammates for the first time during a conditioning-heavy practice Monday.

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