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.