Rangers demote Del Zotto, call up McDonagh

Rangers Ryan McDonagh checks Mattias Tedenby of the

Rangers Ryan McDonagh checks Mattias Tedenby of the New Jersey Devils during their preseason game. (Sept. 23, 2010) (Credit: Getty Images)

Michael Del Zotto - last season's power-play quarterback for the Rangers who had 37 points and made the all-rookie team despite finishing at minus-20 - was demoted Monday and Ryan McDonagh was called up from the Connecticut Whale.

Del Zotto, 20, apparently didn't take the news from coach John Tortorella well.

"I'm not going to get into it," Tortorella said on a conference call. "I don't think it's fair for me or Michael to talk about that publicly. I think Michael understands that this is part of the process. Sometimes players may not agree with it, but really, it's not up to the players.

"I don't think [Sunday] was a bad game [for Del Zotto]. I just don't think he's right. I'm worried about his conditioning, too. With the Christmas break, he had problems with his groin. That really bothers me. I don't think his conditioning is up to speed . . . Sometimes they don't see it there right now. Eventually, he'll realize it's good for him."

McDonagh, 21, who is more of a physical, stay-at-home defenseman and who arrived with Chris Higgins and Pavel Valentenko in the June 2009 trade for Scott Gomez, will not play Wednesday against Carolina, Tortorella said. Matt Gilroy will be back in the lineup.

"They have a game Wednesday," Tortorella said of the Whale. "[McDonagh] will miss that. As an NHL coach, I want to see where he's at, just the practice part. I don't want to read too much into practicing a player, but he's one we're very interested in as a lefthanded shot. A decision will come down the road in the next few days. Coming up does not guarantee him playing a game."

McDonagh signed a pro contract last summer. He has a goal and seven assists in 38 AHL games, with 12 penalty minutes.

Tortorella previously hinted that Del Zotto, 2-7-9 and a minus-1 in 35 games, might benefit from a stint in Hartford because he was "making the same mistakes,'' including lengthy rather than shorter passes.

Said Tortorella: "With Michael, he needs to play . . . We have to worry about development plus winning hockey games. Gilly has gotten better, I've said that all along. Even when he was sitting out, I thought he played well. Right now, we feel this fix . . . this gives us the best chance for winning. Having said that, we can't have Michael sitting and not playing games. We still feel like he's a really big piece to the puzzle."

Notes & quotes: Ruslan Fedotenko, who suffered a severe bruise on his right hand blocking Brian McCabe's shot against the Panthers and did not return, "is much better, there's no damage," Tortorella said. "We'll see [Tuesday if he can play Wednesday]. There's just some stress on the tendons."

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