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Rangers send Michael del Zotto to minors, call up Ryan McDonagh

While his -20 rating indicated that maybe he wasn’t excelling in every area, New York Rangers defenseman Michael del Zotto exceeded most – if not all – expectations as a rookie in the 2009-10 season. He scored nine goals and 28 assists for 37 points in 80 lat season, putting up the kind of numbers that above average veteran offensive defenseman tend to generate.

But much like Calder Trophy winning Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, Del Zotto hasn’t been able to match his rookie year with an equal encore performance. His offensive game is stagnating a bit (two goals and seven assists for nine points and -1 rating in 35 contests), but the real problems seem to be his defensive play and maybe even his conditioning.

Some people think that the Rangers might have rushed the 20-year-old blueliner into the NHL after hearing news that the team demoted him to the AHL in exchange for 21-year-old defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News reports that Rangers coach John Tortorella said that there is no timetable regarding Del Zotto’s stay in the AHL, saying that the team hopes to see an improvement in his preparation for games along with his in-game performance.

It sounds like Del Zotto wasn’t very happy with the demotion, but at his young age, he has plenty of time to improve his overall game.

In a conference call just now, Tortorella said that there is no timetable for Del Zotto’s stay in the AHL, as “we want to see the improvement in him, and that will give him the opportunity to get back here. … It’s seeing improvement, in mindset and play on the ice. Him understanding how to think the game, and think preparation, and also bring it to within his game as far as the minutes he gets there.”

In addition to the mental part of Del Zotto’s game needing work, Tortorella expressed some concern over his conditioning, as one of the games Del Zotto was scratched for was officially as a result of a groin injury after the Christmas break.

It might be too simple to call what has happened to Del Zotto a “sophomore slump,” but really, isn’t that what it is? He came into the league at 19 last season and exceeded expectations. This season, the expectations were much higher as a result, and he has wound up struggling, which can then feed on itself a bit.

“I think Michael understands this is part of the process,” Tortorella said. “Sometimes players might not agree with it, but it’s not up to the player. My conference call with (Glen Sather, Jim Schoenfeld) and myself today, we talked about what’s best for Michael and what’s best for the team. We wanted to give him a chance (last night), and see how he responded. I just don’t think he’s right. … This is a 20-year-old kid, and sometimes they don’t see it there right now, but eventually he’s going to realize this is good for him. It’s going to be good for him as a player and good for us as an organization.”

Playoff hopes take a jolt: Coyotes crush Bishop and the Bolts

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning tends net against the New York Islanders during the second period at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Of the surprises in the NHL so far this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning has to be right up there on the list.

In 2015, they went to the Stanley Cup Final. The future had looked bright, but this signified the Bolts’ arrival into the top tier of teams in the league. Last season, they made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final and lost to the eventual champions from Pittsburgh. That was a playoff run that did not include Steven Stamkos until the deciding game of the East final.

This year? The Bolts are currently not in a playoff position. They’ve had issues defensively. They’ve had issues on offense. They’ve had issues with goaltending. They’ve dealt with injuries or illness to key players like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, and other important members of their lineup.

Looking to gain ground in the playoff chase, the Bolts had what looked to be the perfect opponent to mend their troubles — at least for one game. On Saturday, Tampa Bay faced the Arizona Coyotes, losers of four in a row and sitting above only Colorado in the Western Conference standings.

The perfect remedy, right?

Wrong. So wrong.

The Bolts lost 5-3, mostly because of a disastrous opening two periods. Ben Bishop started and was pulled after 40 minutes, allowing five goals on 17 shots.

Down a goal after the first period, things went south for the Bolts in the middle period. The Coyotes — one of only two teams in the entire league still stuck under 100 goals-for entering this game — beat Bishop for three goals on just nine shots in the second.

The Bolts are dead last in the Atlantic Division, five points back of third-place Boston. They are four points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot, but there are seven teams ahead of Tampa Bay in that race.

There is still lots of time left in the season. But the Bolts had stressed the importance and urgency needed on this current six-game road trip, and they haven’t delivered.

A loss to the Coyotes would certainly seem like rock bottom.

Hartnell’s winner halts Hurricanes comeback attempt

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24:  Scott Hartnell #43 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on October 24, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Blue Jackets defeated the Avalanche 4-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game midway through the third period to push the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Saturday night.

Hartnell scored in the first period and got the tiebreaker in the third, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a terrible second period to beat the Hurricanes for the second time this week. Carolina has lost three straight.

Markus Hannikainen also scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky had 35 saves for Columbus.

Sebastian Aho and Justin Faulk scored in the second period for Carolina. Michael Leighton, recalled from Charlotte of the AHL on Thursday, started in place of Cam Ward and stopped 17 shots.

Hannikainen poked in the first goal for Columbus 4:49 into the game off a rebound in front of Carolina’s net. The shot through traffic resulted in the first goal and point of the 23-year-old rookie’s NHL career.

About 10 minutes later, Hartnell got a breakaway and slammed a slap shot past Leighton’s glove from just inside the blue line to put Columbus up 2-0 at the first break.

“I just tried to bury my head and shoot as hard as I could,” Hartnell said.

The second period belonged to the Hurricanes.

Carolina got the first one back on a power play 9:05 in when Aho picked up the loose puck off Jaccob Slavin‘s blocked slap shot and found the net from eight feet out.

Justin Faulk tied it at 2 when he carried the puck through the neutral zone and snapped off a shot from the right circle that rattled off the bar and in with 4:33 left. Carolina outshot Columbus 9-2 in the period, and Blue Jackets players went to the penalty box four times.

Hartnell got the winner when he took a pass from Sam Gagner and knocked it in from 13 feet with 9:35 left.

Carolina pulled the goalie with 2:32 left but couldn’t tie it.

Video: The Sabres weren’t happy with Emelin after dangerous hit on Moulson

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Alexei Emelin has once again drawn the ire of opposing players.

This time, it was the Buffalo Sabres responding to a hit thrown by Emelin, who caught Matt Moulson with a dangerous hit from behind into the boards during the second period of their game on Saturday.

A massive scrum ensued right over top of Emelin and Moulson along the boards.

Emelin, who has a history of massive and questionable hits throughout his career (See here, here and here for examples) was given a minor penalty for boarding on the play.

Video: Simmonds drops the gloves with Wood

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Wayne Simmonds is not only a productive power forward, but he’s one tough customer.

He showed that again Saturday, dropping the gloves with Miles Wood of the New Jersey Devils during the first period.

The fight occurred right after Wood drove Radko Gudas hard into the boards on the forecheck. The scrap didn’t last long, however, with Simmonds landing a few shots and then taking the Devils forward to the ice.

Simmonds was assessed an extra roughing minor.