The Senators have been hit quite hard with the injury bug this season and they’ve now lost another veteran. NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman relays (Twitter link) that defenseman Nikita Zaitsev will miss the next four weeks due to a heel injury. The injury was sustained in Thursday’s game against Tampa and he was seen on crutches following the game.
The 30-year-old has had a more limited role than he has been accustomed to this season. After logging more than 22 minutes a night in four of his first five seasons (including both years with Ottawa), Zaitsev is down to a career-low 18:32 per night. As a result, his offensive production has tapered off as well as he has just a goal and an assist in 22 contests so far this season although he’s once again averaging close to two hits and blocks per game.
Zaitsev’s absence should provide an opportunity for the recently-recalled Jacob Bernard-Docker to get into the lineup. When the team waived Michael Del Zotto earlier this month, part of the logic was to create a roster spot for Bernard-Docker to rejoin the big club but he has been a healthy scratch since being brought up on December 9th. As he’s one of now only six healthy blueliners on the active roster, that should change.
Meanwhile, Zaitsev joins fellow blueliners Josh Brown and Erik Brannstrom plus centers Colin White and Shane Pinto on injured reserve. Of that group, Brannstrom appears to be the closest to returning with the Senators hoping he’ll be able to resume skating after the holiday break. Brannstrom has been out for a little more than a month with a broken hand.