Alain Vigneault wasn’t simply talking to hear himself speak two weeks ago when the Rangers’ coach said Michael Del Zotto hadn’t earned a spot on his defense’s top six.
For Wednesday night here against the Panthers, Del Zotto was scratched in favor of Justin Falk for the fourth time in the last seven games.

It is becoming increasingly clear the 23-year-old defenseman does not fit into this coach’s plans. Del Zotto has been the subject of trade discussions for a few weeks and remains a Ranger only because the club has yet to receive an offer it hasn’t been able to refuse.

The Blueshirts don’t have the organizational depth on defense to accept a discount return for Del Zotto, who watched the second period of the Rangers’ 5-2 victory from the press box by the side of his agent, Pat Morris.

Del Zotto obviously did not do much to impress Vigneault in the first three games of this trip in Dallas, Nashville and Tampa after having been scratched from the previous three matches. The defenseman was minus-two without a point while paired with John Moore on the road swing.

“It’s a combination [of his work] and who we’re playing,” Vigneault said before the match. “We need a little bit more bite and Falk brings us that.”
While Del Zotto has become a lineup yo-yo, Moore has been a third-pair staple.

“I think John is a real smooth skater; for me, like Michael, [they are] two skilled skaters,” Vigneault said. “I just feel right now that John has shown he’s a little better skater. He can jump up on the play. He can beat the forecheck.

“He’s shown me he can beat the forecheck on a more consistent basis than Michael has shown so far.”