Friday, April 14, 2017

{allcanada} Nikita Zaitsev of Maple Leafs likely out for Game 2


WASHINGTON -- Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is not expected to be in the lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-DC).

Washington leads the best-of-7 series 1-0.

"I don't expect him back," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Friday. "He didn't go on the ice today. I was lobbying the best I could today, but they [the trainers] don't much care what I say."

The Maple Leafs held an optional practice Friday at Verizon Center, a day after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Capitals in Game 1. Zaitsev, who missed Game 1 after sustaining an upper-body injury in Toronto's regular-season-ending 3-2 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets last Sunday, did not skate despite Babcock's efforts to convince Toronto's trainers. Zaitsev instead worked out on a stationary bike.

Zaitsev, 25, averaged 22:01 of ice time during the regulr season, second among Maple Leafs skaters, and finished with 36 points (four goals, 32 assists) in 82 games.

Because of Zaitsev's injury, Babcock shuffled his defensive pairs prior to Game 1, including moving left-handed defenseman Matt Hunwick to the right side of a pair with Morgan Rielly, Zaitsev's usual partner.

"I haven't done a ton of it this year, but the last four, five, six weeks I played right [side] throughout the game," Hunwick said. "It's just something I have to be more comfortable with. Some stuff is great, in the offensive blue line to be able to walk the middle with your forehand. It can be tougher [having to go your backhand at times, especially with ice that's not always perfect. At times you can see the ice better, at times you're limited. There are some adjustments."

Defenseman Martin Marincin entered the lineup for Game 1 and played with Connor Carrick, and Jake Gardiner played alongside Roman Polak.

"It's something that this time of year, injuries are going to affect certain spots in your lineup," Carrick said Thursday. "[Zaitsev] is an important part for us, but we have to try to fill the void as best we can."

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