The Toronto Maple Leafs announced they have placed defenseman Nikita Zaitsev on injured reserve Sunday after he suffered a lower-body injury in Friday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings. Kristen Shilton of TSN tweets that while there is no definitive word on how Zaitsev was injured, the defenseman did block a shot from Niklas Kronwall in the second period Friday and missed the next seven minutes of action after that play. He did return after that, however.
Zaitsev leads the team in minutes played as he has averaged 22:51 of ice time this season and should be severely missed by the team. He has four goals and six assists in 34 games this season. While there is no word on the severity of the injury, the fact he was placed on injured reserve means the earliest he can come back will on Dec. 28 against the Arizona Coyotes. He will have to miss three games.
To replace Zaitsev, the Maple Leafs recalled defenseman Martin Marincin from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. He was placed on waivers to start the season and has played with the Marlies all season despite spending the entire season last year with the Maple Leafs (he only played 25 games last season, however). Marincin has been the Marlies top defenseman all season as he has seven points in 18 games this season. The Athletic’s James Mirtle tweets that Marincin’s confidence this year on the ice has been a big reason why he has played so well with the Marlies.
The moves will shake up the defensive pairings in Toronto as it’s likely that Roman Polak will take Zaitsev’s spot on the top line with Ron Hainsey, while Connor Carrick would move into the lineup and be paired with Jake Gardiner.