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Round 1

Vatanen questionable for Devils in Game 5 against Lightning

Defenseman has upper-body injury after hit by Kucherov

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Sami Vatanen is questionable to play for the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2).

The Lightning lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.

 

[RELATED: Lightning picking up defense in first roundLightning add to series lead with Game 4 win against Devils]

 

The defenseman has an upper-body injury sustained during a 3-1 loss in Game 4 on Wednesday. He did not travel with the Devils to Tampa on Thursday but could join them later.

If Vatanen cannot play, the Devils could reinsert Mirco Mueller, who has three shots on goal and a minus-1 rating in two Stanley Cup Playoff games. They could give right-handed shot Steven Santini an opportunity to play in his first NHL playoff game.

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

Video: The guys talk about the Lightning win over the Devils

Vatanen was injured at 16:09 of the first period after a hit from Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. Vatanen had one goal, seven hits and four blocked shots averaging 19:14 of ice time in four games.

The Devils acquired Vatanen and a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks for forwards Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi, and a 2018 third-round pick, on Nov 30. Vatanen had 28 points (three goals, 25 assists) in 57 regular-season games with New Jersey.

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