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Michael Del Zotto and the sophomore slump

Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto waits for a

Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto waits for a face against the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden. (Oct. 18, 2010) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

The Rangers' 20-year-old defenseman was a healthy scratch last night in Ottawa, the first time Del Zotto has been a DNP in his short NHL career.

It's hard to say he's regressed; as noted in Steve Zipay's post, his defense has probably been better than it was last season, but his offense is down, and that's what he's supposed to provide.

Second-year defensemen, especially ones still not old enough to drink legally in the States, tend to go through struggles. From Del Zotto's 2008 draft class alone, Buffalo's Tyler Myers is scuffling so far this season and Atlanta's Zach Bogosian and Toronto's Luke Schenn, both now third-year players, struggled at times last season, as did their teams.

Del Zotto got a chance to work through his mistakes to build confidence. Now, knowing full well what's expected of him at both ends of the ice, he's caught a bit in-between -- Ranger fans saw that with Marc Staal at times in his second (and third) seasons, and now Staal is becoming a force.

Defensemen take time, period. One healthy scratch -- which it seems is all it could be, given Steve Eminger's back woes today -- isn't the end of the world.

New York Sports