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Flyers getting defensive boost from Michael Del Zotto

Del Zotto's improved play has come at the right time for the streaking Flyers.Getty Images

There have been times this season when Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto couldn’t get on the ice.

These days, the team can’t seem to keep him off of it.

He has gone from a fringe player on the depth chart to a reliable and steady blue-liner on a team that is desperate for one.

The 24-year-old is getting more ice time and riding a career-best six game point streak heading into Thursday’s home game against the Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders.

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It’s a far cry from just over a month ago when he was a healthy scratch in 11 out of 13 games, including nine straight.

“Things seem to be going in for me now,” Del Zotto said after scoring the lone goal during a win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday. “I’ve said it all year that I’ve been happy with the way I’ve been playing. I’ve been playing confident and playing reliable in my own end and playing hard, physical and taking advantage of the opportunities when they come offensively.”

The problem earlier in the year was Del Zotto was taking advantage of too many opportunities on offense. He was over aggressive joining the rush and sometimes got caught up ice and allowed odd-man rushes to opponents.

Now, he is picking his spots more wisely.

“It’s just a matter of reading the play,” said Del Zotto, who was signed to a one-year $1.3 million deal in August after Kimmo Timonen was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs and leg. “Sometimes you’re going to get caught and make mistakes.

“We can’t play perfect out there. It’s just a matter of eliminating those (mistakes).”

Since trading his seat in the press box for a pair of skates on New Year’s Eve, Del Zotto has been better at the latter.

“First his defensive assignments are real good,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “He competes down there, gets on people quick, uses his stick well, does a good job getting on the rush and creating some opportunities offensively.”

Now, he just has to remain consistent at it.

“I mean you never want to sit out. You want to play every game,” Del Zotto said. “As I said when I was sitting out, I was happy with myself and happy with the way I was competing. I was just waiting for my chance to get back in the lineup and prove to the coach that I belong to stay every night.”

 
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