After Seth Jones went down with an injury that kept him out of Tuesday night’s contest between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche, Michael Del Zotto got the chance to return to Nashville’s lineup. The Avalanche got a 5-4 shootout victory over the Predators.
Del Zotto had been scratched the previous game in Chicago, played just 3:13 in Nashville’s 6-5 win at Calgary and was also a healthy scratch for the Predators in Vancouver. It’s been a pretty frustrating week for Nashville’s newest defenseman.
“I never wanted to be out,” Del Zotto said. “Obviously, you’re not happy about it, but it is what it is. It’s not my decision. I’ve just got to do what I’m asked of and play hard defensively.”
Del Zotto responded fairly well in his return to the lineup. He logged 18:20 of ice time and four hits and played pretty well defensively. However, Del Zotto did not have a shot on goal in the game and didn’t create too much offensively. That’s been a strength of his throughout the course of his career.
It seems like the Predators are wanting Del Zotto to be more reliable defensively than he has been so far during his time in Nashville. For a defenseman who can create plays offensively like Del Zotto can, sometimes it’s not easy to be a shutdown defenseman on a nightly basis. Offensively minded defensemen sometimes like to take risks because those risks can pay off at the other end of the ice on the score sheet.
Del Zotto didn’t do as much offensively on Tuesday night as he normally does, but did respond well defensively. That’s been the area of his game that Barry Trotz has taken issue with as of late, and it was something that Del Zotto wanted to correct on Tuesday night.
“That’s what they’re asking me to do, just play solid defensively, manage the puck,” Del Zotto said. “I thought I did a pretty good job of that tonight. I’m just trying to build my confidence up each day and just try to get better and better.”
However, are the Predators really better served with Del Zotto playing more of a defensive role? After all, the offensive side of his game is what made him an attractive piece to trade for when the Predators dealt Kevin Klein to the New York Rangers.
Del Zotto is a defenseman, which means his main responsibility lies in his team’s end of the ice. However, if the Predators are so focused on tweaking Del Zotto’s game to become more defensively responsible that it takes away from his offensive creativity, is that really worth it? It’s a balance that Trotz and the coaching staff are going to have to be mindful of throughout the rest of the season and beyond should Del Zotto return to the Predators next season.
Nashville collected a point in Del Zotto’s return to the lineup and played a decent game as a team. The Predators held a lead in each of the three periods before the Avalanche were able to tie the game late in the third period. Colorado was able to get the upper hand in the shootout and escape Music City with a victory.
“There were a bunch of momentum swings all game. We’ve got to find a way to close it out. [Pekka Rinne] played well for us, and we gave up a few too many looks,” Del Zotto said.
The Predators will host the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.