OTTAWA - Peter Regin’s misery could be Mika Zibanejad’s gain.
If there was a chance the rookie centre wasn’t going to crack the Senators roster, that probably evaporated Tuesday night if an injury to Regin in a 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs is anywhere near as devastating as it looked.
Trying to hit Toronto’s John-Michael Liles in the first period, Regin hit the boards and had to be helped down the hallway at Scotiabank Place with a shoulder injury. It’s the same shoulder that required surgery and ended Regin’s 2010-11 season.
Centre Jason Spezza said he feels for Regin.
“I’m not sure what his status is. He’s worked hard to get himself healthy, he’s been playing well. I hope he’s all right,” said Spezza.
Senators coach Paul MacLean said he didn’t know the extent of the injury.
“I don’t know a time frame. He didn’t come back to the game, so it was serious enough to keep him out of the game, but this is exhibition. We’ll know more (Wednesday),” said MacLean.
Zibanejad, who is in a battle with Regin and rookie Stephane Da Costa for the job as the No. 2 centre, scored his third goal of the pre-season.
Zibanejad chose his words carefully after the game.
“It’s always nice to score, but it’s always hard to be happy when you lose,” he said. “I don’t see (Regin’s injury as an opportunity). He’s a great player and a great guy. He got hurt and, hopefully, he’ll get better as soon as possible.”
While Zack Smith and Nick Foligno also scored, the Senators dropped their second straight to the Leafs, who got goals from Clarke MacArthur, Darryl Boyce, Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Liles.
With only one pre-season game left — Thursday in Boston — it would be hard to believe the 18-year-old Zibanejad won’t be in the lineup when the regular season opens Oct. 7 against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Leafs put this away in the third as MacArthur and Boyce scored to break a 3-3 tie. Boyce tipped a Cody Franson point shot past Robin Lehner, who was making the start with Craig Anderson and Alex Auld nursing injuries.
The Senators, who have been offensively challenged through the pre-season, exploded for three goals in the first. They were clinging to a 3-2 lead when Kulemin tied it up at 12:05 of the second by banging away at a loose puck in the crease.
The NHL could be calling winger Chris Neil to discuss a hit late in the game on Grabovski. It looked like accidental contact.
“I think he kind of moved into him,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “It was a subtle, little move. Looked like he deliberately moved in the way. You can’t see that at ice level. Refs did not have a chance to see it. Part of the game.”