- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2017

TORONTO — Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev will play in Game 3 after missing the first two games against the Washington Capitals.

Zaitsev and Leafs coach Mike Babcock both confirmed as much Monday morning. Babcock gave a simple answer when asked to describe Zaitsev’s status.

“Playing,” Babcock said.

Zatisev played in all 82 regular season games for the Leafs but was injured in the final game. Babcock said Zaitsev began skating in practice again Saturday and Zaitsev participated fully Monday.

“Feeling good,” Zaitsev said. “I’m so excited. It was hard to watch the games on the TV [in the press box] when I didn’t play so now I feel really good so I can help the team.” 

Zaitsev’s readiness comes at a good time for Toronto, which lost defenseman Roman Polak for the remainder of the playoffs Saturday and extended several players over the course of two overtime games in Washington.

Zaitsev, who was paired with Jake Gardiner in practice Monday, has fresh legs but will have to get himself up to playoff speed quickly. Zaitsev averaged 22:01 in ice time during the regular season.

Will he be ready?

“We’ll find out,” Babcock said. “You and I will know at about the same time.”

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