The Pittsburgh Penguins could have Olli Maatta back for Game 6 against the Washington Capitals. Maatta, 21, took part in a full practice Monday and coach Mike Sullivan said Maatta is a “game-time decision” for Tuesday’s game.
The Penguins have been without Olli Maatta since his first shift of Game 2 in the second-round series against the Washington Capitals, but when Pittsburgh has their second chance to close out the series Tuesday night, Maatta could be back in the lineup.
Maatta, 21, has been sidelined with an upper-body injury since Game 2 following a vicious hit from Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, which resulted in a three-game ban for the Washington rearguard. Maatta has been back skating for the Penguins over the past few days, and while he didn’t suit up in Saturday’s Game 5 loss, there’s a distinct possibility he could be back in action come Game 6. Monday, Maatta took part in a full practice, where he skated alongside Trevor Daley and was used on the second power play unit.
“Olli had a good practice today,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, via PittsburghPenguins.com’s Sam Kasan. “He’s feeling 100 percent. We’ll see how he responds to practice. He’ll be a game-time decision.”
No specifics of what has been ailing Maatta have been released, but the third-year defenseman said he felt good on the ice Monday and his chance to play could be entirely up to the Penguins’ medical staff at this point. “The next step is to be cleared,” Maatta said, via Kasan. “We don’t know yet. I felt good out there and have had no setbacks.”
Getting Maatta back would be a huge bonus for the Penguins in Game 6 as Maatta can be steady at both ends of the ice. In 67 games this season, he scored six goals and 19 points while averaging nearly 20 minutes per game. Even if he doesn’t come back into the lineup and contribute offensively, his reliability on the blueline could help Pittsburgh ensure they don’t let Washington force a Game 7.
Maatta is a solid second-pairing or depth option for the Penguins, and that would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the blueline. The Capitals were able to force the Penguins depth defensemen into errors in Game 5, especially on their third goal of the game, and getting Maatta back would give Pittsburgh another reliable option on the backend.
If Maatta draws back into the lineup, it’s likely that Justin Schultz will be the odd man out. Schultz played less than 12 minutes in Game 5, but did register three shots on goal.