The Maple Leafs will officially be without Nikita Zaitsev for game one of their playoff series against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, and it doesn’t bode well for their chances. Though Zaitsev was a rookie this season, his experience in the KHL let him step into a top-pairing role on the Maple Leafs where he logged the most minutes among any defender. Playing on the penalty kill and quarterbacking the second powerplay unit, he is an important player all over the ice.
Instead, Toronto will welcome Martin Marincin back into the fold, according to Kristin Shilton of TSN. The 25-year old has played just 25 games for the Leafs this season, though he was a regular last year and put up excellent shot suppression numbers. If there was ever a time for him to get back to those numbers, it’s right now against the Capitals. Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock agrees, telling Mark Masters of TSN “he’s just got to decide if he wants to play in the 2nd game.”
- The Maple Leafs have signed Pierre Engvall to an amateur tryout for their AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies. The Swedish forward was the Leafs’ seventh-round pick in 2014, and broke out this year in the Swedish Allsvenskan (their version of the AHL). His 40 points in 50 games was easily a career high, and he’ll now try to carry that over to the North American game.
- Brooks Laich’s tenure with the Maple Leafs comes to a disappointing end, as play-by-play man Todd Crocker reports that Laich underwent elbow surgery and will rehab away from the team. After being acquired in the Daniel Winnik trade last season, Laich played just 21 games for the club before being buried in the minors this year. The three-time 20-goal scorer will be 34 next season and an unrestricted free agent this summer.