Olli Maatta (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Pittsburgh Penguins will officially be without Olli Maatta for Game 3 as the 21-year-old defenseman is out with an upper-body injury following a late hit from Washington Capitals blueliner Brooks Orpik. Justin Schultz or Derrick Pouliot will replace Maatta.
Early reports regarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta made it seem his chances of playing in Game 3 made were slim, and those chances became even slimmer when Maatta didn’t take the ice for Monday’s skate. After the game day skate, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan confirmed the young blueliner will indeed be out of action as the second-round series shifts to Pittsburgh.
Maatta, 21, has officially been ruled out of Monday’s game with an upper-body injury. While no timeline has been given for his return, the fact that Maatta was almost certainly out of Game 3 two days ahead of the actual contest likely puts Game 4 into question for the rearguard, and he could be out beyond that, too. Sullivan would only confirm that there’s a possibility Maatta returns in the series, but wouldn’t give a target date for a potential return.
The hit that injured Maatta came in the first five minutes of Game 2 when Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw a late, high hit on the Penguins defenseman. The hit left Maatta down on the ice, but Orpik somehow escaped with only a minor penalty for interference called on the play. However, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety handed down a three-game ban to Orpik Sunday, making him ineligible to return to the series until Game 6.
Even with Maatta out, though, Sullivan would not confirm who would be filling the spot vacated by the young blueliner. One of Derrick Pouliot or Justin Schultz will get the call to fill in, but Sullivan hasn’t tipped his hand as to which rearguard will get the call.
Schultz, 25, has already appeared in one post-season game — he suited up in Game 1 against the New York Rangers in Round One — but skated less than six minutes and hasn’t been back in the lineup since. He came over to the Penguins with 22 games remaining in the campaign and was a regular in the lineup as the post-season approached, but hasn’t found the same level of trust since the playoffs began. In 18 games, Schultz had one goal and eight points with the Penguins.
As for Pouliot, the 22-year-old has never seen NHL post-season action, but he progressed to the point this season that he played 18-plus minutes in three of the final four games he skated for Pittsburgh during the regular season. The loss of Maatta is going to open a big hole minutes-wise for the Penguins, and that Pouliot has seen bigger minutes when in the lineup could bode well for his chances of slotting into Game 3.
Neither Schultz or Pouliot could confirm they were in the lineup for Monday’s game, and Sullivan said it will be a game-time decision.