Olli Maatta hit from behind, falls into bench door. Suspension for Niederreiter?

Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta suffered a freak injury Tuesday night on a fall into an open bench and left the game on a stretcher.

Didn’t last season give Olli Maatta a career’s worth of bad luck already? The talented young Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman, 21, dealt with cancer, a case of the mumps and a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery.

The Pens eased Maatta back into this season, playing him only 16:46 a night in his first 17 games, but at least he was healthy. He chipped in a pair of goals and four points, too.

Then came this unfortunate accident Tuesday night, in which, after a shove from Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter, Maatta fell into the Consol Energy Center boards just as Wild backup goalie Darcy Kuemper opened the bench door.

Maatta remained down on the ice for several minutes as the Penguins training staff attended to him. He reportedly left the arena on a stretcher. It was a grim scene for a player who has already dealt with a litany of significant maladies at such a young age. It’s also a big blow to a Penguins team that lost Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff in free agency over the summer and really needed Maatta to be a big part of its blueline.

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And will the hit earn supplemental discipline for Niederreiter? It’s tough to say. If Maatta, who was taken to hospital, is revealed to have a significant injury, there will likely be uproar among Penguins fans. But injuries only impact suspension length, not the decision to suspend, and the hit looked to be a freak play. Yes, Niederreiter hit Maatta from behind, and the Department of Player Safety will have to review how late the hit was, as it has specific standards in terms of how much time constitutes a late hit. But it also didn’t seem to be an overly aggressive shove and may not have even raised an eyebrow had the bench door not opened. It’ll be a tough call for the DOPS.

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin