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Devils defenceman Sami Vatanen is day-to-day with injury

22 April, 2018, 07:08 | Author: Drew Briggs
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A feisty Nikita Kucherov scored two goals, set up another and knocked New Jersey's top defenseman out of the game with a big hit, and the Tampa Bay Lightning moved within a game of making the Devils' first trip to the playoffs in six years a short one with a 3-1 victory on Wednesday night.

The New Jersey Devils now have their backs to the wall as they face elimination on Saturday afternoon in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. "It was a bang-bang play, and I don't think (Vatanen) thought he was going to get hit, but, to me, it was a good hit".

Kucherov wasn't assessed a penalty on the play, while Vatanen immediately left the ice and was later diagnosed with an upper-body injury. However, at the end of the game, the score was 5-3, when given their play in the first half of the game it could have easily ended up 5, 6, or even 7-1. Defenseman Brayden Coburn sent a pass from the left boards that hit off Devils' defenseman Damon Severson. The Lightning's power play was one of the tops in the league, and they have converted at a 35.7 percent clip in the first four games.

"The situations [Vatanen] plays in, if he winds up not playing, you have to change some things around", Devils coach John Hynes said. "We've said it all year long, it's not about the guys out of your lineup, it's about the performance of the guys in your lineup".

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"Kuch tonight flexed his muscles", Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Sami is an important part of our team and a really good player for us but if it's unfortunate that he isn't able to go, then it's next man up and we've said it all along".

After the game, Hynes said in an angry, clipped tone, "I don't have any comment on it".

Kucherov told reporters he was "pissed off" after Tampa's 5-2 loss to the Devils in Game 3 Monday and carried that into Wednesday's contest. This season, Vatanen scored four goals and 28 assists for 32 points in 72. There's hitting in the game.


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