Vigneault: I was told Del Zotto is good, but I’m not seeing it

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If there were any doubts Michael Del Zotto was in the doghouse, his head coach erased them on Wednesday.

“I have been told he is a much better player,” Alain Vigneault said of Del Zotto, as per the Rangers’ Twitter account. “I have not seen that on a consistent enough basis.

“We’ll see how he responds.”

Del Zotto, who has been a healthy scratch in three straight games, will likely draw back into the lineup for Thursday’s game in Dallas, which could be a showcase more than anything else. Trade speculation has heated up around the 23-year-old rearguard, with reports surfacing on Tuesday night linking Del Zotto to Ottawa.

This development marks a pretty quick fall from grace for Del Zotto. Last season, he signed a two-year, $5.1 million extension and proceeded to score 21 points in 46 games, leading all Rangers defensemen in scoring.

Through 16 games this year, he has just four points and is averaging a career-low 18:28 TOI per game.

Worth noting that it’s not uncommon for Vigneault to put defensemen in his doghouse. He routinely banished Keith Ballard to the press box during his time in Vancouver and, prior to Ballard, often made Shane O’Brien a healthy scratch (though to be fair, Ballard was used sparingly because he didn’t fit the Canucks’ scheme; O’Brien’s issues often stemmed from a lack of fitness and maturity.)

Del Zotto hasn’t said much in response to being a healthy scratch but, following his third straight game in the press box, admitted the situation was getting to him.

“Frustration,” he told Newsday. “It’s something you never want. You always work so hard to play and you always want to be playing. And that’s what I’ve done my whole life.”

UPDATE: We do read the comments section on PHT and appreciate feedback, and it appears some have taken issue with this headline. I genuinely don’t think it’s an issue but, since some do, here is the entire quote (courtesy the Bergen Record).

“I can only speak for what I’ve seen so far, and what I’ve seen so far on our team as far as our defensive corps is playing, is he’s fighting for one of the regular six spots,” Vigneault said. “A player like Michael has to play to his strengths. I’ve been told his strengths are his ability to beat the forecheck, join the rush, help out on the power play and get shots through. I have not seen that on a consistent enough basis for him to be able to say he’s going to be in the lineup every night. Some other Ds can have an off night, you’re going to throw them back in even though they have. Michael in the 20 some odd games that I’ve been here has not shown that consistently enough.  We’ll see how he responds and we’ll go from there.

“He is supposed to be a skating defenseman that can beat the forecheck, that can join the rush and obviously has the ability to chip in on the power play,” Vigneault added. “That means he can get a shot through, he can see people that are open around the net. I’ve seen that throughout the span that I’ve been here but I haven’t seen it consistently enough to say he warrants a regular spot all the time. I can only go by what I’ve seen and with what my coaches are seeing. I wasn’t here in the past.”

As always, feel free to voice your opinions below.

The Buzzer: Kempe, Schwartz record hat tricks; Leafs honor Gord Downie

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Players of the night: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues / Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings

The Blues forward tallied his third career hat trick during a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schwartz scored the game’s first two goals before completing his hat trick with a late empty-net goal to stave off a Chicago comeback.

Wednesday’s feat for Schwartz came three years to the day of his first career three-goal game.

Kempe, meanwhile, tallied his first NHL hat trick and finished with four points during LA’s 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of his three goals were assisted by Mike Cammalleri, who also finished the night with four points.

Highlight of the night:

Eddie Olczyk returned to the NBC broadcast booth as he continues his battle against colon cancer. Olczyk, along with Doc Emrick, called the Blues-Blackhawks game from Scottrade Center Wednesday night.

MISC:

Auston Matthews recorded the 20th multi-point game of his career. He now has six goals and 10 points on the season.

Patrick Marleau became the 18th NHL player to reach the 1,500-game mark.

Jake Allen kept his shutout bid alive with this great stick save on Patrick Kane late:

-The Kings are off their best start in franchise history at 5-0-1. They’ve allowed only 10 goals against through six games.

Jeff Carter left the game in the first period and did not return after tangling with Jeff Petry. Afterward, Kings head coach John Stevens said the forward will miss some time.

-Finally, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away from cancer at age 53 on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs paid tribute before their game against the Red Wings.

Factoid of the night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 6, Red Wings 3

Blues 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Canadiens 1

Cammalleri, Kempe power Kings over Canadiens

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Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.

Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.

Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).

LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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