The Ottawa Senators will be without defender Nikita Zaitsev for two-to-four weeks due to injury. His last game was December 14th against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He played nearly 27 minutes in that contest so it is unclear what the injury is at this point. The news was announced late Thursday morning from multiple sources.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 19, 2019
Nikita Zaitsev To Miss Time
Zaitsev is having an okay year relative to his career numbers. The former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman has no goals and eight points through 32 games this season. His point-per-game pace is roughly the same as it was in the previous two seasons. Zaitsev is not an offensive powerhouse from the blue line but he is an effective physical presence and special teams player. He has 55 hits and a team-leading 74 blocked shots in 2019-20.
This injury will provide insight into how the team does without one of its worst puck-handlers. Zaitsev has the even-strength lowest Corsi For of any Senator with at least 12 games played at just 42.3 percent. He also has an abysmal -9.3 Relative Corsi so Ottawa will not miss him much on offence. However, they will have to find a partner for Ron Hainsey on the penalty kill. Zaitsev’s average shorthanded ice time of 3:10 per game is second on the team.
What This Means for the Future
The biggest challenge will be where to shift Zaitsev’s minutes. His total minutes played is behind only star blueliner Thomas Chabot. Ottawa is already breaking in top prospect Erik Brannstrom but current depth charts have both Andreas Englund and Cody Goloubef getting action as well. Ottawa is not good but is still winning far more games than expected. They have only third-best odds for the top draft pick this summer after being the worst projected team to start the season. Losing Zaitsev should help slow them down so they don’t jump a handful of other struggling teams.