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Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

Jersey coach John Hynes will have to juggle his lineup to fill all the roles filled by Vatanen
Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen gets up slowly after being checked by Nikita Kucherov. [AP Photo/Julio Cortez]
Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen gets up slowly after being checked by Nikita Kucherov. [AP Photo/Julio Cortez]
Published Apr. 20, 2018
Updated Apr. 21, 2018

BRANDON – Devils top defenseman Sami Vatanen had not traveled to Tampa as of Friday afternoon, according to coach John Hynes, and his availability for Game 5 Saturday against the Lightning is in doubt.

Hynes, however, did not rule out Vatanen because of the upper-body injury suffered during the first period Wednesday when Vatanen was checked high by Lightning RW Nikita Kucherov.

It would be a big loss for the Devils if Vatanen does not play. He plays the most minutes of all the Devils' defensemen and plays on both the power play and the penalty kill.

Mirco Mueller likely will take Vatanen's spot, though Hynes will have to juggle his lineup to cover all the roles filled by Vatanen.

"It's no different than the regular season," Hynes told reporters in Newark on Wednesday. "Sami is an important part of our team. He's a really good player for us. But if he isn't able to go, it's next man up."

RELATED: Why McDonagh was perfect pickup for Lightning

Hedman honored by honor

D Victor Hedman was named a finalist Thursday for the Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the league. He finished third in the voting last season.

"It's a big honor, obviously," Hedman said.

Hedman, who scored a career-high 17 goals and had 63 points, said it is easier to enjoy personal accolades when playing for a winning team.

"When you don't go to the playoffs, it's tough to look at your personal accomplishments," Hedman said. "For us to make the playoffs this year and make a great season, my season, I think I had a higher standard this year.

"I think my all-around game was much better this year, playing a lot of minutes, playing in a lot of situations, playing in all three games, playing my game. I want to carry that over in the playoffs."

RELATED: Tom Jones on the crucial Game 5

Bring on the boos

Hedman said he deserved to be booed by Devils fans in New Jersey, as he was after lifting his stick into C Nico Hischier's groin in Game 3. Hedman said he apologized in a text after the game to Hischier, the first overall pick in last year's draft.

"Immature play by me," Hedman said.

Daily Cally update

RW Ryan Callahan (lower body) practiced Friday but coach Jon Cooper said his status for this afternoon's game will not be known until this afternoon.

"He's definitely going to be a game-time decision," Cooper said.

Callahan has not played the past two games after suffering what is believed to be a right shoulder injury late in the second period of Game 2.

He said it

"It's do or die. There's a lot of pressure on us, but there's pressure on them, too."

— Devils LW Taylor Hall

Number of the day

14. Andrei Vasilevskiy's rank on the top-selling NHL jerseys, according to The Score. That's tops among Lightning players.

Contact Roger Mooney at Follow @rogermooney50