Olli Maatta

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Pens recall pair of d-men, putting Schultz’s status into question (Updated)

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The Pittsburgh Penguins — in the wake of Olli Maatta’s surgery — have recalled a pair of defensemen, Cameron Gaunce and Steve Oleksy, from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The fact two d-men were recalled also calls into question the status of Justin Schultz.

Schultz was forced to leave last night’s victory over Winnipeg after turning his back on Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who proceeded to drive Schultz into the glass from behind.

The way Schultz’s head hit the glass, there’s reason to wonder if he suffered a concussion on the play. The 26-year-old is enjoying a fine season with the Pens, with nine goals and 30 assists in 56 games.

Update:

The Pens are in Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets tonight.

Hard-luck Maatta out six weeks after hand surgery

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 16:  Olli Maatta #3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center on April 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Another year, another significant injury for Olli Maatta.

On Friday, the Penguins announced that Maatta, who exited last night’s 4-3 OT win over Winnipeg with a hand injury, has undergone successful surgery and will miss the next six weeks as a result.

Maatta, 22, had enjoyed a reasonably healthy campaign up to this point. He’s appeared in 53 games — the only d-men to appear in more are Justin Schultz and Ian Cole — while averaging 18:13 TOI, with a goal and seven points.

The hand ailment is just the latest in what’s been a tough start to Maatta’s professional career. Over the last three year’s he’s had a cancerous tumor removed, major shoulder problems, a case of the mumps and lower-body issue that hampered him at the end of last season.

Maatta’s not the only Penguin on the limp right now, either. Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary are both sidelined, while Carl Hagelin remains out with a concussion. It’s also unclear what sort of shape Justin Schultz is in, after he was crunched by Dustin Byfuglien last night and exited the game.

As for Maatta, the six week timetable means he’s on target for a Mar. 31 return — which translates into as many as 20 games missed.

Penguins top jets in chaotic, brutally physical game

PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 16:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Kris Letang #58 after getting an assist to give Crosby his 1000th career point in the first period during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at PPG PAINTS Arena on February 16, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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Probably the wildest game of the NHL schedule on Thursday took place in Pittsburgh where the Penguins were 4-3 winners over the Winnipeg Jets in what turned out to be a brutally physical and deliriously entertaining game.

Sidney Crosby recorded three points, including his 1,000th career point in the NHL, as well as the winning goal in overtime, to help lead the Penguins to what could end up being a costly win.

A few things that stood out in all of the madness.

— The Penguins ended up losing two defensemen during the game when Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta both left in the second period to injuries.

Schultz exited when he was hit from behind by Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and hit his head into the glass.

Maatta had to exit the game following a big open ice hit from Adam Lowry (watch it here).

With Schultz and Maatta out, the Penguins (who were already playing without Carl Hagelin, Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust at forward) had to play the final half of the game with only four defensemen. It clearly started to wear on them a bit as the Jets rallied from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the third period.

— Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, who scored a goal and assisted on Crosby’s winning goal thanks to an incredible individual effort, added to the physicality on more than one occasion, and especially in the third period when he rocked Blake Wheeler with this high hit in the slot in front of the Jets’ net.

Malkin ended up receiving a minor for interference and a minor for roughing as a result of that sequence. Given that he appeared to leave his feet prior to contact, and that it was a high hit, you can be certain the NHL’s department of player safety is going to be taking an extra look at that play.

Wheeler briefly exited to the Jets’ locker room but returned to the game later in the third period.

— With the NHL trade deadline less than two weeks away there was a belief that this could have been Marc-Andre Fleury‘s final start in Pittsburgh as a member of the Penguins. If it was, he went out in style playing a vintage Fleury game that included some highlight reel saves, a terrible goal against, poke checks, and a season-high 44 saves.

— After Fleury gave up a horrendous goal to Byfuglien to allow the Jets to take a 3-2 lead, erasing what had been a two-goal deficit, Crosby drew a penalty in the offensive zone to set up a Phil Kessel power play goal to send the game to overtime. The overtime period was nearly five full minutes of back-and-forth hockey that featured Fleury making a huge save on a breakaway, the Jets having a couple more near misses, and then Crosby eventually scoring the winner on this tap-in in front.

— With his three points, Crosby is now up to 64 points on the season and — for the time being — regained the lead in the NHL scoring race.

The Penguins are back in action on Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a huge game in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins lead the Blue Jackets by two points in the standings for the No. 2 spot.

Coach Mike Sullivan had no update on the status of Schultz or Maatta for that game.

Depth scoring helps Penguins get by Canadiens

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 18:  Olli Maatta #3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his third period goal with teammates during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on January 18, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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MONTREAL (AP) Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens’ offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday’s wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price‘s woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games.

A tight-checking first period saw Pittsburgh strike first as Cole took a feed from Evgeni Malkin on a counterattack and scored on a high shot inside the near post with Patric Horqvist screening Carey Price. Malkin picked up his seventh point in five games.

Fehr, who got into the lineup with Matt Cullen out 3-to-4 weeks with a foot injury, was left alone in front to take a pass from Chris Kunitz and score 5:19 into the second. Guentzel made it 3-0 at 17:38 when he tipped a point shot from Cameron Gaunce, who was making his Penguins debut.

Andrighetto got one back at 18:11 when he banked one in off Murray from the side of the net.

Conor Sheary got away with tripping defenseman Jeff Petry behind the Montreal net and fed the puck to Maatta at the point for a low shot that went through Price’s pads 15:36 into the third frame.

A scoreboard tribute was paid to former Montreal Expos star Tim Raines for his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Penguins: at Carolina on Friday night.

Canadiens: at New Jersey on Friday night.

Penguins say Murray is ‘week-to-week’ with a lower-body injury

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 08:  Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save during a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on December 8, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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It’s a good thing the Pittsburgh Penguins get their bye week soon, because there’s been yet another injury to a key player.

Coach Mike Sullivan announced today that goalie Matt Murray is “going to be week-to-week with a lower-body injury.”

Murray had to leave last night’s game against Carolina after two periods. He was replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped all 19 shots he faced in the third, helping the Pens to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory.

“I thought Marc-Andre came in and did a terrific job and made some big saves in the third period,” Sullivan told reporters. “That’s not easy to do when you’re sitting on the bench, to have the focus he had to make those timely saves.”

The Penguins host Montreal Saturday, then don’t play again until Jan. 8 when Tampa Bay pays a visit.

A goalie has not yet been recalled from AHL Wilkes-Barre to back up Fleury against the Habs, but young Tristan Jarry could potentially be rewarded with a call-up; he’s 13-5-0 with a .921 save percentage for the Baby Pens.

In some ways, the Penguins are actually getting healthier. Defenseman Trevor Daley returned to action against the Hurricanes, logging 20:52 with an assist.

Another d-man, Kris Letang, is getting close, though it remains to be seen if he’ll be ready by Saturday, or if he’ll just wait until after the bye week to return. Letang is still on injured reserve, along with d-man Brian Dumoulin.

Yet another d-man, Olli Maatta, has missed the last two games with an illness. No word if he’ll play Saturday, but he was skating this morning.

Related: Dumoulin to miss 4-6 weeks after surgery for broken jaw