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.
“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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