DALLAS - After being benched for three games, Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto knows where he stands.
"I have something to prove coming back in," Del Zotto said before Thursday night's game. He returned and played with John Moore on the third defensive pairing. "Just have to play my game . . . Try and spark the offense [three goals in the last three games] a little bit, and be solid defensively," he said.
"Try and contribute with whatever minutes I get, make the most of them." Sometimes you force things a little when you're struggling. I just need to keep things simple and pick my spots."
Coach Alain Vigneault expected Del Zotto, who has shown in the past that he can create chances offensively but was just 1-3-4 with a minus-4 rating entering Thursday night's game, to man one point on the second power-play unit, make good first passes and join the rush when the opportunity is there.
Defenseman Justin Falk, who dressed for the last three games, took a seat.
"Even though I really like the way Falk played for us the last couple games," Vigneault said, "against Dallas, probably a puck-moving defenseman is a little more what we need."
Forward J.T. Miller also was a healthy scratch for the second straight game because Vigneault felt the 44-shot, 2-1 loss to Boston at MSG on Tuesday "was one of our best games as far as generating quality chances and not giving up anything."
The last time the Rangers played at American Airlines Center was on Jan. 7, 2011, and Mats Zuccarello not only was a rookie but a star of the game. Zuccarello, in his seventh game, scored in the second round of the shootout in a 3-2 win. "I know we won in a shootout," Zuccarello said after the morning skate. Asked what he recalled about that season, he said: "I was nervous all the time." . . . Anthony Duclair, the Rangers' third-round pick last June, scored the game-winner in the third period in a 4-3 win on Wednesday in the Quebec Major Junior League's two-game sweep of Russia in the Subway Super Series.