From reports from the NHL and Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, the Devils will be without Mike Mottau and John Madden on Sunday's late afternoon game with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
There was controversy in last night's game, as Mike Mottau elbowed Frans Nielsen right in the chin in the third period. Nielsen went down, Trent Hunter took exception to the hit, and Mottau promptly threw him down in a bizzare 30 second sequence of Mottau's strength. Seriously, I didn't know he ever had it in him. Anyway, Mirtle has video of the whole incident here if you want to check out the TV feed. Given where I sit, I was on the far end of the rink so all I saw was Mottau hitting Nielsen, who went down; and Hunter going after and failing to Mottau. But after seeing the video from Mirtle and seeing what Tom Gulitti had to say about it after the game, it's definitely worthy of additional punishment in the form of a punishment.
Lo and behold, that's exactly what happened today. The NHL has suspended Mottau two games for the hit. In all honesty, it wouldn't have surprised me if it was 5 games as that's what Thomas Pock got for a high hit (hat tip: Mirtle, again!) But such is the NHL Disciplinary Committee, it seems useless to try and figure it out. Unfortunately, due to the hit, Nielsen will be out 8 to 12 weeks according to this report at NHL.com. The report says multiple leg injuries, and Gulitti has reported that Nielsen has suffered an injury to his right knee from the hit. I assume that's from coming down from the hit, but still, it's definitely bad news. It is never good to see anyone get hurt from such a hit and I certainly hope he will make a full recovery.
Now, according to Gulitti - who also reported Mottau's suspension - John Madden will also not play in Tampa Bay on Sunday due to a sore left foot. Makes sense, really, as a sore foot would make Madden ineffective in the game. Hopefully it's fully healed before he gets any playing time. I'm not totally confident in Mike Rupp centering the third line again on Sunday. With Mottau suspended for the upcoming Tampa Bay game, I expect Sheldon Brookbank to take that spot on defense, which would leave a forward spot open.
Yesterday, Nicklas Bergfors was sent down to Lowell and Barry Tallackson is up with the Devils. The transactions page at TSN confirms this. Assuming Tallackson stays, I would think the Devils should call Bergfors back on an emergency basis to fill in that spot. He was just here, he's healthy, and he gets another shot to impress, even if it's only for a few minutes. It'll be up to Sutter to reorganize the lines, which will no doubt be rearranged multiple times during the game regardless of what happens. But I don't think it would be a bad idea for Vrana to start the game centering that third line and see how he handles it. He has started on the first line with Elias and Zubrus back in October in his first NHL game (h/t: Gulitti), and he didn't look too bad. For this game, he can handle a few more minutes doing some more defensive work. That said, it could easily be Rupp again because it did work last night agains the Isles. Still, someone is likely to be called up for at least this one game.