New Jersey Devils Can’t Rely On Andy Greene In Sami Vatanen’s Absence

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 15: Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers battles for the loose puck with Andy Greene #6 of the New Jersey Devils on November 15, 2018 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 15: Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers battles for the loose puck with Andy Greene #6 of the New Jersey Devils on November 15, 2018 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The New Jersey Devils got a big win in Philadelphia, but probably lost their most important player. If Sami Vatanen has to miss any considerable amount of time, the Devils cannot give his role to Andy Greene.

What a win it was for the New Jersey Devils. However, it may be the most costly win of the season. The Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 on the back of a miraculous effort by Keith Kinkaid. What made the shutout even more impressive was the team’s best defenseman, Sami Vatanen, went out in the second period with a left leg injury.

It’s hard to tell where Vatanen got hurt. He took a stick to the face while going towards the boards. That caused him to slide towards said boards feet first. He immediately skated on one leg towards the bench, then hopped towards the locker room. It was not a good sign.

Unfortunately, we did not get an update from head coach John Hynes post game. He’s officially listed as day to day with a lower-body injury. That tells us absolutely nothing.

When the Devils have had injuries to Vatanen in the past, they’ve relied on one person to replace his production. That would be the captain Andy Greene.

Five years ago, that would be perfect. Greene was once one of the most underrated defensemen in the entire league. That’s not the case anymore. He’s fine at positioning, but he’s so slow now and he can’t make up for his partner’s mistakes like he used to.

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Despite this fact, the Devils did exactly what they shouldn’t. They leaned on Greene when Vatanen got injured on Thursday night. He led the team in time on ice with 25 minutes. Mirco Mueller and Damon Severson both played 22 minutes. Ben Lovejoy and Will Butcher spent the least time on the ice.

If Vatanen is indeed hurt, the Devils will add either Egor Yakovlev or Steve Santini, who’s recently been cleared himself, to the lineup. Personally, I’d love to see Yakovlev get a legit chance to prove himself. He has the offensive upside already, and if he gets used to the North American ice he could be part of the future and the present.

What they can’t do is plug Greene on that first line with Mueller. That has disaster written all over it. Honestly, since Greene came off the first line, he’s been a much better player. Right now, the Devils should do this for their lines:

Mueller-Severson
Greene-Yakovlev
Butcher-Lovejoy

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That gives the Devils three fine defensive lines. Listen, losing the Devils top defender was never going to make this defense look good. However, this is the best of what you got. Whatever they do, they can’t be giving Greene more than 20 minutes per game. We saw what that looked like the past two years. He looks much better this season with a new role. Let him be the captain and a second-line defender. Don’t make him a first-line guy.