WASHINGTON â€” Maple Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev will remain out for Game 2 against the Washington Capitals.
Zaitsev missed Game 1 on Thursday night with a suspected concussion. The 25-year-old was replaced in the lineup by Martin Marincin as head coach Mike Babcock shuffled around all three of his defensive pairings in the 3-2 overtime loss.
“He didn’t go on the ice today,” Babcock said at Friday’s optional practice. “I was lobbying the best I could today, but they don’t much care what I say.”
Roman Polak took Zaitsev’s spot on the top pair alongside Jake Gardiner while Morgan Rielly reconnected with Matt Hunwick. Marincin, meanwhile, played with Connor Carrick on the team’s third pairing.
Babcock planned to keep that grouping intact for Saturday’s Game 2 with the Leafs looking to even the series up at one.
Zaitsev hasn’t played since Sunday’s regular season finale when he was hammered into the boards by Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno. He sat out practice all week, but has been around the team â€” even watching Game 1 from the press-box.
A rookie at 25 this season, Zaitsev led the Leafs in minutes during the regular season and finished second among the team’s defenders with 36 points.
Hunwick and Polak both took on big minutes in Game 1 with Zaitsev out.
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press