No guarantees for Rangers lineup

Michael Del Zotto Michael Del Zotto Photo Credit: MSG Photos

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Michael Del Zotto said before he was a healthy scratch against the Islanders that, with the '10-11 Rangers, nothing is given.

It doesn't just go for Del Zotto, the Rangers' second-year defenseman who has struggled this season after playing 80 games as a 19-year-old rookie. Del Zotto missed yesterday's Rangers practice with a sore groin, but he would be sitting out tonight's game with the Devils in Newark if he were healthy.

That may be the biggest change between last year's Rangers and this year's: No one has a guaranteed lineup spot.

It began in training camp, when Brian Boyle was squarely on the roster bubble coming in. He needed to have a good preseason and carry it over to stick; what he's done is go far beyond just making the roster.

Boyle scored his 13th goal in Monday's 7-2 rout of the Islanders, second-most on the team. He has centered Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko for much of the year, and that's been John Tortorella's most consistent line, the one the coach has been loath to break up.

Matt Gilroy had a strong camp and has played well at times, but he seemed to have been knocked down the depth chart by Michael Sauer. Now, Gilroy has played his way back in and Del Zotto could end up going to Connecticut of the AHL when he's healthy, a possibility that would have been unmentionable last season.

And with 23-year-old rookie Mats Zuccarello playing with some gusto in his first two NHL games, the last one on the top line with Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan, nothing is assured for some veterans who've been able to play through slumps this season, such as Alex Frolov and Erik Christensen.

"You can't take anything for granted," Del Zotto said last week.

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