Michael Del Zotto unleashed a wrist shot that whizzed wide of the goal during one of his first shifts in Sunday’s intra-squad scrimmage at the Flyers SkateZone in Voorhees. On his next shift, Del Zotto ripped a slap shot that was blocked by a swarm of players in front of the net.
The two small moments might have been oversights in the hour-long scrimmage, but they were both nearly half a year in the making.
The scrimmage, albeit against a collection of Flyers regulars, Lehigh Valley Phantoms and rookie free agents, was the first live game action for Del Zotto in more than six months. The 26-year-old defenseman injured his left wrist in a game against the Devils on Feb. 13, underwent surgery a week later and missed the rest of the regular season and playoff series against the Capitals.
He wasn’t cleared medically for contact until August.
“I’ve been itching to go since [February],” Del Zotto told reporters on the first day of training camp last Friday. “I’m feeling really good. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Del Zotto, who tore his ligament off the bone, said he rehabbed all summer and is 100 percent healthy. He backed up that assertion with his performance at training camp, and then played 20 minutes in Monday’s preseason loss against the Islanders and had a team-high six blocked shots in 22:14 during Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Islanders.
“I think the benefit of the time of year Michael went out to have surgery allowed for full rehab over the summer,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “His first couple days of camp were good and sharp. He looks like he’s in good shape and it’s been a positive [start].”
At the time of his injury, Del Zotto was leading the Flyers in ice time at over 23 minutes and developed into one of their most reliable defensemen. Although his offensive numbers were down from the year before, he was taking fewer risks in the offensive zone and providing stability on the backend.
“It’s good to see him back out there,” Flyers goalie Steve Mason said. “We missed him down the stretch last year. He brings an element of speed, offensive talent and also helps in our zone.
“It’s good to have him out there, especially with the young kids coming up that are pushing for spots. It’s good to have a veteran presence back there and calm things down when it can get crazy.”
Del Zotto, who is entering the final year of a two-year, $7.5 million deal, is looking to prove he should be part of the organization’s long-term plans. However, for right now, he is just happy to be taking slap shots and wrist shots on the ice again.
“I’m so excited to be back,” Del Zotto said.