Mike Halford

Olli Maatta
AP

Will the Pens healthy scratch Maatta?

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After being sidelined for nearly three weeks, Olli Maatta returned from a lower-body injury to play in the first two games of Pittsburgh’s opening-round playoff series against the Rangers.

The return hasn’t gone so well.

In Saturday’s 4-2 loss, Maatta was minus-2 despite being held to less than 17 minutes of ice time, finishing with ugly possession metrics (43.5 Corsi).

At Monday’s practice, there were signs Maatta might’ve played himself out of the blueline mix. The young Finn was skating on the spare d-man pair with Derrick Pouliot, who’s been a healthy scratch for the first two games of this series.

Then there was this, from Pens head coach Mike Sullivan:

Maatta has dealt with a lifetime’s worth of health issues over the last few years — thyroid cancer, major shoulder surgery, the mumps — and only appeared in 67 games this year. So, it’s not entirely surprising to see him struggle with the increased pace and intensity of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Of course, this doesn’t make the development any easier for Pittsburgh to handle.

The club wasn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline with Maaata, and now? A top six of Kris Letang, Trevor Daley, Ben Lovejoy, Ian Cole, Justin Schultz and Brian Dumoulin is serviceable, but doesn’t exactly inspire.

Game 3 of this series goes Tuesday night, at MSG.

Seguin ‘irritated something’ in Game 2, stayed in Dallas, won’t play tonight

Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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As the Stars-Wild series shifts to Minnesota for tonight’s pivotal Game 3, Dallas will once again be without Tyler Seguin.

But this time, the absence might not be related to his lacerated Achilles.

Seguin, who didn’t travel with the club to Minnesota for tonight’s game, “irritated something that rendered him not effective” in Saturday’s Game 2 win, per Stars head coach Lindy Ruff.

“He’s day-to-day,” Ruff went on to explain. “It’s related to his injury. Not his injury, but it is kind of related. Might be kind of a fallout of all of a sudden playing at a high pace.”

Seguin, who missed significant time at the end of the regular season and Game 1 of this series with the aforementioned Achilles issue, had a limited role in Saturday’s win — no points and just one shot on goal in 15:40 of ice time.

With Seguin out, the Stars look like they’ll ice a top line of Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin and Patrick Sharp this evening.

In related lineup news, defenseman Kris Russell is unlikely to play tonight, due to illness. If he can’t go, look for Jordie Benn to draw in.

More changes in Ottawa as Luke Richardson departs

Luke Richardson 3
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The Senators continued to shake things up on Monday, announcing that veteran AHL Binghamton bench boss Luke Richardson would be leaving the organization “to pursue a new opportunity.”

Richardson, 47, has been with Ottawa for nearly a decade. He spent the final two years (2007-09) of his playing career there, then quickly transitioned to coaching, serving as an assistant for three years, under both Cory Clouston and Paul MacLean.

In 2012, Richardson moved to AHL Binghamton, embarking on a four-year stretch in which he was widely praised for helping players transition to the big league level.

As today’s release notes, 13 players were recalled from Binghamton this season — and, prior to that, Richardson received accolades for his work with the likes of Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

The most interesting this about today’s announcement is that Richardson won’t be in line for Ottawa’s vacant head coaching gig.

Part of that could be due to a general housecleaning, as the club has already changed GMs (from Bryan Murray to Pierre Dorion) and cleaned house behind the bench, turfing Dave Cameron, assistants Jason Smith and Andre Jourigny, and goalie coach Rick Wamsley.

But still, Richardson has been considered an NHL coach in the making. At one point, he was believed to be the frontrunner for the Buffalo job that eventually went to Dan Bylsma.

Related: Cameron on ‘hurtful’ Melnyk remarks — ‘it felt like I was fired for three weeks’

Hakstol: ‘Easy decision’ to start Mason tonight

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After letting in a historically bad goal in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Caps, Steve Mason has been subjected to a number of questions — including ones asking whether he’d start tonight’s pivotal Game 3 at Wells Fargo.

The answer, according to head coach Dave Hakstol, was a no-brainer. From the Inquirer:

Hakstol said it was an “easy decision” to go back to goalie Steve Mason on Monday. Mason allowed a 101-foot goal in Saturday’s 4-1 loss, but he carried the Flyers into the playoffs and was brilliant in Game 1.

“He’s a huge part of why we’re playing in the playoffs,’ Hakstol said.

Mason deserves a shot at redemption. As Hakstol alluded to, the 27-year-old was huge during Philly’s playoff push down the stretch — the goalie of record in 17 of the last 19 games — and, let’s be honest here, Hakstol’s other option isn’t great.

While it’s true Michal Neuvirth had a very good regular season, he’s essentially played just once over the last month, missing extensive time with a torn meniscus in his left knee. It would be asking a lot of Neuvirth to step into this series and make an impact.

That said, it’s easy to see why the suggestion of a goalie switch is out there.

Yesterday, Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill made the change from Jimmy Howard to Petr Mrazek for Game 3 against the Bolts, after Howard lost the first two games of the series (though was hardly to blame).

Mrazek and Detroit responded with a 16-save shutout win over the Bolts.

After Boyle’s chicken dance, Abdelkader admits he ‘would have liked to fight him’

BoyleAbby
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Brian Boyle wanted to fight Justin Abdelkader at the end of Tampa Bay’s 2-0 loss in Detroit on Sunday.

That much was clear.

But Abdelkader wasn’t willing to go — for reasons unclear at the time — which led to Boyle busting out this chicken dance in Abdelkader’s direction:

Only afterward did the full explanation come out.

Turns out Abdelkader was not, in fact, chicken — he had his injured hand taped up and, per NHL Rule 56 (b), “any player wearing tape or any other material on his hands (below the wrist) who cuts or injures an opponent during an altercation will receive a match penalty under Rule 52 – Deliberate Injury of Opponents.”

“I would have liked to fight him,” Abdelkader said, per MLive. “I asked the ref if I cut him, is it a misconduct, and I already got one, so I got to be careful.

“Obviously, I want to stand up for myself, too, but this time of year when you got injuries and you’re banged up you got to be smart, too, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Just a few months ago, Rangers forward J.T. Miller was ejected from a game versus New Jersey for fighting Devils forward Sergei Kalinin with taped hands.

“It’s the call in the book,” Rangers head coach Alain Vingeault said afterward, per the New York Post. “If you’ve got tape above your wrist and the guy gets cut, it’s an automatic match penalty.”

Abdelkader, as mentioned, had already received a game misconduct earlier in the series, having been deemed the aggressor in a scrap with Mike Blunden at the end of Game 2.

So, he backed off.

As for his take on Boyle’s antics?

“It’s kind of funny, but if he wants to do that, that’s what he wants to show, whatever,” Abdelkader said. “It doesn’t affect me at all because I know what type of player I am.

“I stand up for myself when I’m healthy.”