New Jersey Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen is listed as day-to-day following a huge hit he suffered from Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov in the first period of Wednesday night’s loss.
New Jersey Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen is out of the lineup for now with an upper body injury. He is listed as day-to-day and didn’t travel with the team on Thursday as reported by Amanda Stein, beat reporter for the Devils.
Vatanen took a bomb of a hit from Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov in the first period of Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss at the Prudential Center. The loss has now put the Devils in a 3-1 hole as the series heads back to Tampa, FL for Game 5 on Saturday afternoon (NBC, 3:00 p.m.).
Sami Vatanen headed to the locker room after this hit from Nikita Kucherov. pic.twitter.com/tw3Bap5zHK
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 19, 2018
The replay of the hit appears to show Kucherov’s shoulder making direct contact to Vatanen’s head. Kucherov was coming at Vatanen at full speed and made contact just as Vatanen lost the puck. The arms of Kucherov came up on the follow through and both players went down to the ice following the hit. Vatanen went straight to the locker room following the injury and no penalty was called on the hit by the on-ice officials.
Head coach John Hynes was furious following the hit that knocked his defenseman out of the game. Hynes felt the hit was to the head, but the NHL didn’t see it that way. The league deemed the main point of contact was to the body, with no unavoidable contact to the head.
Vatanen was still being evaluated as of Thursday and could still possibly play in Game 5 should his situation improve.
“The situations [Vatanen] plays in, if he winds up not playing, you have to change some things around,” Devils coach John Hynes said as reported by Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com. “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.”
Vatanen appeared in 72 games for the Devils this season registering four goals and 28 assists for 32 points. He had 13 assists on the power play. In the playoffs, Vatanen appeared in all four games played and scored one goal.