Michael Del Zotto hopes to regain his place in the lineup on Monday (Getty Images)

Girardi and Prust Injured; Grachev and Del Zotto Called Up

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Dan Girardi (ribs) and Brandon Prust (ankle) are the latest additions to an ever growing list of injured players. Girardi was hurt last night after fighting Thrashers winger Andrew Ladd while Prust injured his ankle blocking a shot in the first period. While the injuries are relatively minor (both as listed as day-to-day), they could not have come at a worse time for the club, which has relied heavily on its minor league depth to fill out the roster the past few weeks. As a result, Michael Del Zotto has resurfaced from Connecticut, while Evgeny Grachev was called up, with Dale Weise being sent back to the AHL. Neither player is new to the team, but what both bring could potentially be completely different than what they did (or didn’t) in their earlier games with the Rangers this season.

After a relatively impressive rookie season in the NHL, Michael Del Zotto‘s play was seemingly lacking as the current season progressed. Del Zotto was inconsistent last season, as you would expect from almost any 19 year old rookie defenseman. One thing that was consistent, though, was his incredible ability to ignite the offense with his outlet passes. This season, those passes have been finding the sticks of the opposition more than those of his teammates. Del Zotto also seemingly regressed in his ability to quarterback the powerplay. Though nobody has outright claimed it, members of the Rangers staff hinted that Del Zotto has spent too much time partying and not enough time focusing on his job. Del Zotto continued making questionable decisions with the puck and positionally in his first game with the Whale, but immediately found his groove right after, putting up 7 assists in his next 7 games. Girardi will probably be a game time decision tomorrow, but if Del Zotto is indeed put in the lineup his point abilities surely will be welcomed by a team that’s PP conversion rate has fallen to 23rd in the league. Let’s hope that Del Zotto has his confidence back and can contribute to this team in the same way he did for much of last season.

Evgeny Grachev is somebody who also might be underachieving. After absolutely dominating the Ontario Hockey League with Brampton, Grachev was signed to a professional contract and almost made the Rangers out of training camp last season. Though showing some flashes of brilliance, Grachev notably had trouble adjusting to the professional game. Rangers fans were looking for signs of improvement, and those did not come early on. Grachev’s statistics so far this year look mediocre at best, but they do not tell us everything. It’s important that prospects show progress over time, and that is what Grachev has done. Prior to his call up, Grachev notched his first professional hat trick, and has 5 goals in his last 3 games. Evgeny is only 20 years old, and it’s clear that his hockey abilities still haven’t fully developed to fit his size. New Yorkers seem to prioritize instant gratification, but with Grachev we are going to have no choice but to be patient with him; just how Tortorella and Schoenfeld have been. It took Brian Boyle, a 1st round pick, until age 26 to finally mold his game to fit his big size. Let’s not expect miracles from Grachev any time soon. At the same time, though, I think we are going to see a more confident Grachev this time up than in his first 6 games of relative insignificance earlier in the season.

Tags: Brandon Prust Call Ups Connecticut Whale Dale Weise Dan Girardi Evgeny Grachev Injuries Michael Del Zotto New York Rangers Rangers

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