Justin Falk has not played in exactly four weeks---a span of 11 games---but tonight in Montreal he is back in the lineup taking the place of Michael Del Zotto, and he wore a big smile and said he was "excited" to get another opportunity following the team's morning skate at the Bell Centre.
Falk has appeared in only three games this season---none since the 4-0 loss in New Jersey on October 19th---but he has kept his spirits up by working hard, seeking to be a good teammate, and seeing his team post a 7-4-0 record since he last was in the lineup.
"What's happened the last couple of weeks has been out of my control, so you do what you can to stay sharp and be as conditioned as you possibly can to go out there and not feel a step behind when your chance does come," explained Falk, who has totaled 11 penalty minutes, seven hits and three blocked shots in his three games so far this season. "I want to go out there and make a difference in a positive way."
Since it's been a while since Falk has seen game action, the 6-foot-5 defenseman says he knows exactly what kind of approach he needs to take to playing against the Canadiens tonight.
"Definitely less is more early on," said Falk. "It's been a while since I've been in game action with game speed. I need to keep things simple, which is my all-around game anyway, but especially early on nothing too cute."
On the other side of the coin is Del Zotto, the team's 2008 first round draft pick who is being scratched for the second time this season. Several times when discussing Del Zotto with reporters on Saturday, head coach Alain Vigneault pointed to the fact that the coach has been told by veteran members of the organization that Del Zotto has much more to contribute. What frustrates the coach is that he is not seeing that higher level of play on a more consistent basis from Del Zotto.
"I've been told there is more to his game than what I have seen, and we need that from him," Vigneault said of the 23 year-old defenseman. "We feel tonight we need to make a change there, and I'm hoping he'll react the same way (Mats) Zuccarello did when he was fighting it a little bit. He took it upon himself to get his game to where we needed it to be, and he's been one of our better players now."
In ten games since being a healthy scratch in Philadelphia on October 24th, Zuccarello has recorded ten points (2-8-10), and has been held without a point only twice. Del Zotto was also a healthy scratch back on October 19th in New Jersey.