GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said defenseman Michael Del Zotto has played "alright" since he returned from his mini two-game benching. Del Zotto has not dressed for nine games this season, including two of the team's last six games.
"He's going back harder for pucks and taking the check to make the play," Vigneault said after practice Saturday. "Defensively still some areas there he needs to work on."
Del Zotto was most recently scratched for a win over Florida on Dec. 31, and their loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 4. In November, Del Zotto was scratched five times, including a three-game stretch from Nov. 16-19.
"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, get his shots through," Vigneault said in November. "I have not seen that on a consistent enough basis for him to be able to say that he's going to be in the lineup every night."
He added that day: "I've been told that Michael Del Zotto is a much better player than I've seen so far."
The defenseman, a first-round pick in 2008, had tallied an assist in three straight games since his most recent benching before failing to score in the Rangers' 3-2 win over Dallas on Friday. Del Zotto, 23, has just two goals and eight assists in what's been a rough season for him.
Vigneault would like to see more out of the defensive pairing of Del Zotto and John Moore.
"I think him and John have a lot of upside and a lot of potential to be a real good pair," Vigneault said "They got a couple of areas defensively -- where to go and what time to go and stick position. If both of them spent a little more time communicating they should be a real effective pair for us."
Miller sent down: Vigneault said the Rangers sent J.T. Miller to Hartford because there isn't room for him with the team's four lines set at the moment. Miller was replaced by recently acquired enforcer Daniel Carcillo.
"Since I've got the luxury of sending him back and forth without waiver issues, I'd rather him play," Vigneault said. "I know that if we need him he's just a phone call away."
The Rangers are currently carrying one extra player in defenseman Justin Falk, but Vigneault said he'd like to have a spare forward around. There are currently no plans to call up a forward before Sunday's game against Philadelphia, but with Hartford in close proximity the Rangers could make a move easily, if needed.
No worries: Defenseman Dan Girardi did not practice Saturday as he had a maintenance day.
"Plays a lot of minutes," Vigneault said. "Bumps and bruises here and there. He'll be there tomorrow."