Wednesday, April 12, 2017

{allcanada} Nikita Zaitsev out for Maple Leafs in Game 1


TORONTO -- Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev won't play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Washington Capitals on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-DC) because of an upper-body injury.

Martin Marincin, who has not played since Toronto's 7-2 loss at the Florida Panthers on March 14, will dress in his place.

Coach Mike Babcock officially ruled out Zaitsev for the series opener after practice Wednesday but left open the possibility that he could return for Game 2 on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-DC,).

"We're always hopeful he'll be back. I don't know 100 percent for sure," Babcock said. "I thought he was going to skate [Wednesday]. He didn't skate today so obviously he wasn't ready to go. We have a skate [Thursday] and then the following day so we'll figure out what goes on. We're just going to say everybody at playoff time is day to day."

Zaitsev was injured in Toronto's final regular-season game, a 3-2 home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

Babcock wouldn't say if the injury was a concussion.

"The great thing about this medical department is I don't deal with that part," he said. "They just tell me he's not available to go and he has an upper-body injury."

Defenseman Roman Polak, who sustained a lower-body injury against the Blue Jackets, returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out Tuesday and will play in Game 1.

"No scary moments at all. It was just a little sore, but it's OK now," Polak said. "It was just pain tolerance I would say, but I can manage that now. It's all good."

Polak's presence will add more physicality against Washington, a repeat winner of the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's regular-season champion.

"He's usually giving out pain, he's not usually receiving it so we don't deal with it a bunch," Babcock said. "Everybody is a little bit different in what affects them physically. Roman's one of those guys who isn't affected by pain very much."

Morgan Rielly skated with Matt Hunwick at practice Wednesday. Jake Gardiner was paired with Polak and Marincin worked with Connor Carrick. While Babcock thought they were "fine," he said he may go with different pairings on Thursday.

"I haven't decided what they're going to be," Babcock said. "We thought Zaitsev was going to play, so when we found out he wasn't going to play, we had to move it around here. We went one way yesterday and another way here today. We've got a pregame skate tomorrow; we'll get it figured out."

Goaltender Frederik Andersen was officially named the Game 1 starter. He participated in his second full practice since leaving a 5-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday after getting bumped in the head by forward Tom Sestito.

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