Michael Del Zotto sat at his stall and seethed following the Rangers’ 5-2 win over the Canucks Saturday afternoon.
Del Zotto’s reaction was to Tom Sestito’s unpenalized head shot in the third period. Del Zotto reported no concussion symptoms, but had a bruise near his right eye.
“All I really felt was the side of my face, contact,” Del Zotto said. “I have to see the replay but [I was] kind of defenseless there, looking up in the air trying to play the puck and it seems to be his M.O. It is what it is. I should have known he was on the ice and [tried to] protect myself and played it differently.
“You see how many injuries there are now in the league and we’re trying to get rid of these head shots. They’re down by a couple goals and these guys are running around trying ... trying to make a difference, I guess.”
Sestito’s hit left a bad taste in what was otherwise a professionally rewarding day for the beleaguered defenseman. Del Zotto returned to the lineup after being scratched in Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Bruins in Boston. He scored a goal — his second of the season — and skated 17:43 spanning 20 shifts.
“The goal was icing on the cake and, of course, the two points,” Del Zotto. “There were so many little plays. You saw how excited some of the other guys got when I scored. It was such a great feeling for me.”
Del Zotto specifically singled out Derek Dorsett for praise. Dorsett fought Sestito later in the period.
“Having [Dorsett] stick up for me, it shows how close of a group we have in here and just bringing us closer together,” Del Zotto said.
Defense, power play impress
Two aspects which remain work in progress is generating offense from the defense corps and the power play. Both contributed in the win over Vancouver Saturday afternoon.
Under head coach Alain Vigneault’s system, defensemen are expected to not only start the play but contribute offensively. Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman and Ryan McDonagh combined for four points and a plus-3 rating. Of the four points, two — Del Zotto’s goal and a McDonagh assist — came on the power play.
“There’s a belief here — a strong belief — that there is more offensive production from this ‘D’ corps,” Vigneault said before the game. “We’re trying to work to improve it.”
The Rangers entered the game 18th in the NHL on the power play. And while the coaching staff has changed personnel, it appears Stralman will not see time with the man-advantage units for the foreseeable future.
“I just don’t see that right now,” Vigneault said. “Maybe it’s something we can develop. I don’t see that part. I see a defenseman who’s real dependable, that takes a check to make those little plays in our zone so we can come out clean. As far as that other part of his game, [I’m] not sure that potential is there. [It] could be there but I haven’t seen it at this time.”
Stralman has only seen 9:32 — an average of 21 seconds per game — of ice time on the power play in 27 games this season.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.