The Maple Leafs will be without a key player on the blue line when they visit the Caps for Game 1 of the teams’ first round series on Thursday.
Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, who finished second on the Leafs in average ice time during the regular season, has been ruled out due to an upper body injury.
Zaitsev got hurt Sunday when he was crunched by Columbus captain Nick Foligno along the boards. The Russian blue liner appeared woozy as he skated to the bench following the hit, but Coach Mike Babcock isn’t specifying what ails Zaitsev.
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“The great thing about this medical department is I don’t deal with that part,” Babcock told reporters in Toronto. “They just tell me he’s not available to go. He’s got an upper body injury.”
Zaitsev had four goals and 36 points in 82 games in his first NHL season. He also averaged 22:01 per game.
He’ll be replaced in the lineup by Martin Marincin, who has appeared in 25 games this season.
In other injury news, goalie Frederik Andersen (head) will start Thursday after being involved in a scary-looking collision on Saturday. Defenseman Roman Polak, meanwhile, is probable after practicing fully on Wednesday.
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You may think the odds are against Alex Ovechkin winning yet another Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals. Ovechkin turned 33 on Sept. 17 and since the trophy was first introduced in the 1998-99 season, only one player over the age of 30 has ever won it.
That player was Ovechkin. He’s done it twice.
Let’s take a minute to appreciate just how dominant a scorer Alex Ovechkin has been through his career. Only three times has a player reached the 50-goal plateau in the past five seasons. Those players are Ovechkin (50 goals in 2015-16), Ovechkin (53 goals in 2014-15) and Ovechkin (51 goals in 2013-14).
Normally, it would be crazy to think a player over 30 could lead the league in goals. It would be crazy to think a player over 30 could score 50.
Ovechkin -- who has led the league in goals in five of the past six seasons -- is anything but normal.
After winning his seventh Rocket Richard Trophy last season and showing no signs of fatigue or decline in a dominant Stanley Cup championship run that won him a Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, it’s not crazy to think he can do it again at age 33.
Maybe his 50 goal days are behind him. But even if he doesn’t hit that mark, he should still be in contention considering no one else in the league has scored 50 goals since the 2010-11 season when Corey Perry netted 50. Forty-nine goals was all it took last season for Ovechkin to lead the league.
With a balanced line of Evgeny Kuznetsov in the middle and Tom Wilson on the wing and a still dominant power play that will continue to be coached by Todd Reirden and Blaine Forsythe, Ovechkin will be able to light the lamp and will absolutely be in contention to lead the league in goals yet again.
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The Capitals have really taken the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to heart this season.
First, they returned almost their entire roster from last year’s championship run. Now, they’re bringing back a classic look.
The Capitals revealed their third jersey for the season on Monday, and it should look very familiar:
The NHL made the switch to Adidas as its jersey manufacturer prior to the 2017-18 season. Because of the move, the league announced there would be no third jerseys that first season to allow Adidas to keep up with demands. Now in the second season with Adidas, however, the third jerseys are back.
A number of teams have already released alternate looks for the upcoming season ranging from glorious to hideously bland. Washington decided to stick with their vintage look going with their original red jersey, a look the team used as its alternate prior to the switch to Adidas.
The decision is a smart one considering the original red jersey is the best look this team has sported in its history.
If you’re not a fan, however, or if you’re someone who looks forward to new jerseys, first your opinion on jerseys is invalid because the classic red is glorious. Second, just remember that it could always be worse.
No, seriously, it could be much worse.
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