SAN JOSE - Even with the walls crumbling around the Flyers' locker room, Michael Del Zotto arrived for the morning skate yesterday like any other.
Last week, Luke Schenn and $30 million man Andrew MacDonald were scratched from the lineup.
Del Zotto didn't think he would be next. It was only about 2 weeks ago that coach Craig Berube said Del Zotto was his most consistent blue liner through the first 2 months of the season.
Seated next to Vinny Lecavalier in the press box last night, Del Zotto's surprising benching was proof again that no player is immune from accountability in the eyes of a coach desperate to shake his team from the doldrums.
Berube's spree of scratches has targeted accomplished veterans, struggling rookies, high-priced defensemen and league-minimum forwards.
"I was a little bit surprised when I came to the rink this morning," Del Zotto said. "I was a little bit disappointed, frustrated, all of the above. Things obviously aren't going as well as the team would like as of late and we're trying to find a way to get some wins, so it's a coach's decision."
Del Zotto, 24, was clearly bothered by Berube's sudden change of direction - and he hasn't been alone over the last week. One player needed to sit to make room for MacDonald's return, of course, but Berube had other options besides Del Zotto.
Braydon Coburn has been as inconsistent as any defenseman, particularly with turnovers and coverage, yet he remained in. Just as R.J. Umberger was a better candidate to sit instead of linemate Lecavalier, who has 548 more career points and double as many as Umberger this season.
"Everyone has to be better," Del Zotto said. "Everyone can be better in here. That's about what it boils down to - it's not going to be one or two guys [sitting] that changes things around."
Berube said he thought Del Zotto's game "dropped off" recently. He still contends it's "more of an individual thing right now with certain players," than sending a message to the team.
"He's played some really good hockey for us," Berube said. "But the last little while, I've noticed that he wasn't moving the puck, he was trying to do too much himself. To me, his defensive play has dropped off a little. I talked to him today about getting back on track and move the puck, joining the rush and not leading the rush, and playing better defense."
MacDonald and Lecavalier both acknowledged confidence has been an issue for them recently. If confidence really is the issue, could it be counterproductive to sit a struggling player?
"It's definitely not going to help," Lecavalier said. "That's why I've got to move on. Mentally, I've got to be prepared, watch the game and maybe that's going to help me. Maybe there's some things that you can improve."
Berube instead said "confidence comes from structure, doing things properly, doing them with intensity and playing like a team."
Not every player has as short a memory as Schenn, who responded from his healthy scratch to be the Flyers' best defenseman at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
"I'm obviously not proud of it, but it's something that I've experienced and gone through before," Schenn said. "I think the biggest thing is you've got to remain confident in your abilities as a player and know that you belong and to come back hungrier."
That might not be as simple for Del Zotto, who fell out of favor quickly in New York last season and even more quickly in Nashville. The Flyers were a fresh start for him. Yet last night's vantage point was just a flood of old, negative thoughts.
"That's the toughest thing about this sport - it's not the physical aspect," Del Zotto said. "Everyone has that, everyone works hard. It's dealing with it mentally and staying even-keeled when things are going well or there are bumps in the road. It's obviously easier said than done, but you have to try to stay focused and remain confident."
A three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a ruling this week denying the widow of former Flyer Dmitri Tertyshny the right to sue her late husband's insurers for accidental-death payments.
The case, originally filed in 2010 - some 11 years after Tertyshny's tragic death in a boating accident in British Columbia in 1999 - was denied by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Albert J. Snite Jr. because it has passed the statute of limitations.
Polina Tertyshnaya maintained belief that her husband's insurance policy contained accidental death and dismemberment coverage, while the insurance companies contended he purchased a $1 million policy solely for permanent total disability. When Tertyshny died, the insurance company partially refunded the $3,700 premium.
Tertyshny died on July 23, 1999, in a freak boating accident on Okanagan Lake. He was with teammates Francis Belanger and Mikhail Chernov. Their boat hit a wave, causing Tertyshny to fall overboard, and the propeller of the boat slashed his neck and jugular vein. He had just completed his rookie season, playing 62 games with the Flyers, and left behind Tertyshnaya, who was 4 months' pregnant.
The suit was also on behalf of Tertyshny's son, Alexander, who will soon turn 15.