TORONTO- New York Rangers defenceman Michael Del Zotto is back on the ice after undergoing surgery last month.
On June 13th the 23-year-old had surgery performed in Philadelphia to repair a sports hernia and recovery time was estimated at four weeks. Right on schedule, Del Zotto returned to skating at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto in July and Thursday he worked with skating consultant Barbara Underhill for the second time in as many weeks.
“It’s good,” Del Zotto said about the injury. “I had the same surgery on the other side two years ago so I know what to expect and I’ve done the rehab before so it’s a pretty simple procedure.
In terms of rehabilitating the injury, “I stuck to protocol.”
The Stouffville, Ont. native is expected to make a full recovery before training camp in September and is optimistic about returning to New York to play for new head coach Alain Vigneault.
Unlike the past two seasons, when the Rangers relied heavily on a defensive style of play and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to win games under coach John Tortorella, Del Zotto believes Vigneault will ignite the offensively talented players that were absent at points during the year, most notably throughout the playoffs.
“From talking to different players, they speak so highly of (Vigneault),” said Del Zotto. “I think the different outlook will help our team, a little bit more of an offensive style with the talent we have. I’m looking forward to next season.”
Vigneault replaced Tortorella, who was let go four days after the Boston Bruins eliminated New York in five games in Round 2 of the playoffs, on June 21st.
“When you fall short changes happen,” said Del Zotto.
Tortorella, who was hired by New York in February 2009, led the Rangers to top spot in the Eastern Conference in 2012 and was nominated for the Jack Adams award as coach of the year. Last year, however, his club underachieved and when the post-season rolled around they barely produced any offence, despite having power forward Rick Nash to play alongside Brad Richards.
Richards, who was in the second year of nine-year $60 million deal, struggled at times in Tortorella’s system, producing only 34 points in 46 games, and in the first round of the playoffs found himself on the fourth line. Tortorella, then, made the controversial decision to bench Richards in Game’s 4 and 5 against the Bruins, ultimately ending his season in the press box.
“A guy like him, it’s unfortunate to see how it went for him in the playoffs,” said Del Zotto.
Del Zotto, who grew up 45 minutes from the MasterCard Centre, plans to skate in Toronto with Underhill until sometime next week. That’s when he’ll turn up his off-season training so he can go into camp 100% healthy.
“We all expect to have a bounce-back year,” said Del Zotto.