According to a report from TSN’s Kristen Shilton, injured Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev made his long-awaited return to the ice this morning in Toronto.
Zaitsev has been out of the team’s lineup for over a calendar month with a suspected broken foot. The Leafs have been reticent to offer up any information about the exact nature of the Russian blue liner’s injury or his return date, but this latest development has to be seen as a huge postitive.
During Zaitsev’s absence the Leafs, and in particular the Leafs defence, has struggled. Zaitsev’s usual partner Jake Gardiner has been getting victimized on nearly a nightly basis as he doesn’t have the safety net of Zaitsev’s superior defensive game behind him. An increase in minutes for Roman Polak and Andreas Borgman has also led to problems in the defensive end.
Add the absence of Morgan Rielly into the mix and the Leafs are poised to sink to another level. The importance of Zaitsev’s return cannot be understated, it’s not hyperbole to say that their entire season is riding on his return.