Flyers' Del Zotto unhappy about lack of playing time
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto was a healthy scratch for the eighth time in 10 games.
WINNIPEG - Michael Del Zotto sounds as if he is nearing his wits end.
The Flyers were supposed to be a fresh start for him, a chance to resurrect his once promising career. Now, in a matter of 3 weeks, Del Zotto's season has unraveled to a point it never reached even last season.
In November, Del Zotto was heralded as the Flyers' most consistent defenseman.
Last night against the Jets, he was benched as a healthy scratch for the eighth time in 10 games. He has played just two games in December.
Even at his darkest moments last season, the most Del Zotto ever sat was a stretch of five games over a stretch of 11 - something he did in both New York and Nashville.
Last night was his sixth consecutive scratch with the Flyers.
"Honestly, I don't know what to think. I really don't," Del Zotto said. "Obviously, you're not happy with one game, let alone [six]. So I'm not happy with it. In San Jose [on Dec. 2] I was shocked, disappointed, frustrated, all of those things. All of the above.
"At first, you get really frustrated and upset, but at the end of the day you have no control over what's going on."
His coach, Craig Berube, doesn't have an answer for him. The situation is different than, say, defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who has also been heavily scratched but signed his deal with the Flyers knowing he was expected to be a spare.
"It's hard," Berube said. "I want to win. I look at the whole thing: team, game, the way guys play. We've got healthy 'D' and I really like the way the 'D' has been playing right now. But I've got to look to get him in there, too."
Del Zotto played the first 22 games and averaged north of 20 minutes in ice time. Then his spot - and confidence - was yanked out from under him without much warning.
"I thought I was fine," Del Zotto said of his play.
Berube said Del Zotto's game "dropped off." Preaching a more conservative approach, Del Zotto pushed the envelope too much for Berube's liking.
"He tends to try to beat guys one-on-one and gets risky at times," Berube said.
Del Zotto, 24, has never been known as a defensive defenseman. That's why he was able to notch eight points in his first 15 games. Right now, he just doesn't fit Berube's scheme.
His head is already spinning. Damage control needs to be called. If Del Zotto isn't back in the lineup soon, he may not be of much use if Berube decides to change his mind.
"I've got to keep him focused and tell him we like him," Berube said. "We do like him. It's just the situation."
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced last night that the team will not have an update to provide on injured goaltender Steve Mason today, as expected.
Hextall originally said Mason was scheduled to see a doctor today, but that plan changed for an unknown reason. He said on Saturday in Toronto that the doctor was unable to examine Mason and that team trainer Jim McCrossin had relayed all the information available to the doctor.
It is unlikely Mason would be available to play in Minnesota tomorrow night. The Flyers have been unable to provide a specific timetable, only ruling Mason out at least through this past weekend.
"I'm optimistic it won't be long," Hextall told reporters Saturday. "Until you get the information, you don't know for sure. I don't anticipate it being a long time but it could change."
Since Zac Rinaldo was out with a minor injury, forward Chris VandeVelde was reinserted into the lineup last night after sitting two games as a healthy scratch.
Rinaldo might be back in time for tomorrow night's contest in Minnesota. That would be unfortunate timing for VandeVelde, whose relatives picked the game in the Twin Cities to drive to instead of Winnipeg. VandeVelde, 27, grew up in the middle of both NHL stops in Moorhead, Minn., across the river from Fargo, N.D.
VandeVelde is most thankful, though, his young family can be comfortable during the holidays.
After signing a lease on an apartment in Allentown following training camp, he was called up by the Flyers on Oct. 17. He was recently told by the team to seek more permanent housing in South Jersey after living in a hotel for the last few months with his wife and 2-year-old son, Levin.
VandeVelde is enjoying his longest run on an NHL roster. He's played 23 of the 33 games - his most in any one season since breaking in during the 2010-11 season - and has a career-high three points. He's been able to provide the Flyers with speed in a limited fourth-line role.
"Getting out of the hotel was big for me and my family," VandeVelde said. "The hotel life is rough with a 2-year-old. He has a little more space to run around now. I wouldn't say it's made me feel more satisfied at all, but I'm more comfortable with the day-to-day now."