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Michael Del Zotto Must Find His Game, and Find It Soon

Matthew CalamiaCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2011

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 02: Michael Del Zotto #4 of the New York Rangers skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on December 2, 2010 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Last night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers Michael Del Zotto simply looked lost.

He didn't look comfortable in his own end and really showed how much confidence he's lost since being scratched at the end of December, then sent to the AHL earlier this month.

This does not bode well for Del Zotto, 20, who was named to the All-Rookie team last season. Unlike previous years, the Rangers have an abundance of solid, young players ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Del Zotto's spot is not secure with the team, or the organization.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'd be really surprised if he is traded; in fact, I'd be shocked. But you have to be worried about him.

At times last season, Del Zotto showed that he was a rookie and really should have been sat or maybe demoted to regain his confidence much like this season. Last season though, there was no one to be brought up.

This season, the Rangers had Ryan McDonagh in the hopper and to a lesser extent, Pavel Valentenko; also, Michael Saurer made a huge step this summer, making the team right out of camp.

We've seen that the organization feels more comfortable going with this year's rookie in McDonagh, and rightfully so. McDonagh has shown no reason to be sent back after being called up when Del Zotto was sent down.

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So, what can Del Zotto do to get back into the lineup? Go back to basics. We've heard him say to just look for quick, east-west passes rather than the home run shot. It is easier said than done, as Del Zotto attempted at least one long pass Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.

Sadly for the young Del Zotto, he needs to have some guys above him trip up and that doesn't seem to be happening. Steve Eminger has been solid on the blueline all year, and I don't expect him to stop in the final 30 games. Sauer has seen the coaching staff entrust him with big-time minutes against big-time players in the absence of Dan Girardi.

Matt Gilroy is a bit of an enigma, but just doesn't make the glaring mistakes that Del Zotto made over and over. Is he as exciting to watch as Del Zotto is when he's on his game? No, he isn't. But sometimes it's a good thing not to notice a defenseman.

Finally, McDonagh has played extremely well and it would simply be a mistake to send him down. The organization has enough trust in him that they shipped out their lone veteran defenseman to secure him a starting position on defense.

I don't believe Del Zotto will be shipped; I wouldn't be surprised, though, if he spends the rest of the season playing for the Whale.

We'll see how much confidence the organization has when Gilroy and Eminger become free agents this summer. He's too young to let go, but he appears too set in his ways to give another shot just yet.

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