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Jake Gardiner out week-to-week with back injury

Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner is out week-to-week with an apparent back injury, per Leafs PR.

He will not be playing tonight with Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers visiting Scotiabank Arena. Instead, Igor Ozhiganov will make his return to the Leafs’ defenceman group, his first game since January 23rd.

With the trade deadline past, the Leafs will now be looking towards the playoff picture and not having Gardiner in the lineup for an extending period of time will be worrisome. If the Leafs want to make any ground on the Boston Bruins and attain home advantage, the Leafs’ blue line will need to come together in the 28-year-old defenceman’s absence.

The new pairings will keep Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey together, slot Jake Muzzin in beside Nikita Zaitsev and reunite the Travis Dermott and Ozhiganov combination. Muzzin will most likely take Gardiner’s spot on the second power play unit.

Gardiner missed two games earlier this season (January 20th and 23rd) due to back spasms as well. He has returned to then play 13 games for the club but his injury quite apparently has not gone away.

There are just over four weeks left in the regular season, so hopefully, Gardiner will be able to return before the playoffs and get his momentum back before the likely series against the Bruins.