Olli Maatta returns to Penguins lineup vs. Rangers, Sidney Crosby sits out

Olli Maatta hasn’t played an NHL game in almost two months, but that will change today against the New York Rangers.

Out since the middle of February following hand surgery, Maatta will return to the Penguins lineup for the regular season finale, which is good news for the defending champions after the developments from earlier this week when they learned that their top blue liner Kris Letang is gone four-to-six months after neck surgery.

The Penguins and Rangers are both off to the playoffs. Today’s result has no impact at all in the standings. Pittsburgh is locked into second in the Metropolitan Division, while New York will finish as the first wild card team.

Given all the injuries they’ve dealt with this season, it’s hardly a surprise that the Penguins are also sitting Sidney Crosby, the league’s leading goal scorer with 44 — four better than Auston Matthews and Nikita Kucherov for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.

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    Sidney Crosby had some high praise for Auston Matthews


    The Toronto Maple Leafs need one win this weekend to secure their first playoff spot since the 2012-13 season. The biggest reason they are in a position to make the playoffs is a dominant rookie class led by Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. That trio has burst onto the scene this season with all three becoming immediate stars.

    Matthews in particular has excelled and has put together one of the best goal scoring seasons ever for a player under the age of 20.

    He enters the weekend needing just one goal to reach the 40-goal mark, something only 11 other players have done in a season before turning 20 (only two, Rick Nash and Steven Stamkos, have done it since 1992-93). He would also be the first rookie of any age to top 40 goals since Alex Ovechkin did it back in 2005-06 at the age of 20.

    On Saturday, the Maple Leafs are hosting Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Crosby, the NHL’s current goal scoring leader, had a chance to talk at length about the impressive rookie season Matthews has had for the Maple Leafs and offered plenty of high praise

    “I think the biggest thing that stands out is how he complete he is,” said Crosby, via TSN‘s Kristen Shilton. “That’s what I noticed from just watching him play. Just that maturity.

    “His game is just so well-rounded. He’s a guy who can score goals but he’s a guy who can play away from the puck. He’s strong on the puck. He scores goals different ways, and that is probably a big reason why he is so consistent. He’s got a great shot, but he can also score from in close and goes to the net hard too. I think he’s just shown a lot of maturity in his game early on. He’s got a really good wrist shot. He’s not a one-timer guy like a Stamkos, or an Ovechkin. Those guys are known for that. He’s just a really skilled guy who has a lot of strength, almost like a power forward would have. It’s a good combination to have And he can skate. You can tell he played pro hockey for a year. And I think he enjoys the pressure. You can tell he’s really raised his game here down the stretch when the games have been important. He’s really embraced everything here.”

    Matthews has certainly raised his game down the stretch for Toronto. As the playoff push has gotten tighter, Matthews has scored eight goals and added four assists in the Maple Leafs’ past 11 games, a stretch that has seen them go 7-3-1.

    Video: Sidney Crosby’s mind-blowing no-look assist


    Sidney Crosby‘s been lighting up goalies left and right with his shooting prowess lately. Honestly, it’s to the point where you forget that playmaking is still likely his greatest gift.

    … And then, well, Thursday happens.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a bit of a track meet with the New Jersey Devils tonight, with Nick Bonino providing some great assisting magic of his own. As per usual, Crosby stole the show with an And1 Mixtape-worthy no-look helper to Conor Sheary.

    Drop your jaw in awe of this gaudy display in the video above.

    At least one person wonders if Crosby could have been so audacious in a different era:

    Chances are, he would have found a different way to do something ridiculous.

    Ryan O’Reilly comments on Sidney Crosby spearing incident: ‘It happens’


    Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has made some headlines this week for a couple of stick infractions that were overlooked by the on-ice officials during his games.

    They were not overlooked by everybody else.

    On Thursday, he caught Marc Methot with a slash to the hand that ended up busting the defenseman’s finger on a play that made Senators owner Eugene Melnyk go berserk on Ottawa radio the next day. On its own it would have been an incident that received a ton of attention, if for no other reason than the gruesome image of Methot’s finger dangling around. But what added to it was the fact that two days before that incident there was the spearing incident involving Buffalo Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly that you see in the video above.

    On Saturday, O’Reilly was asked for his thoughts on the play after everything that has happened with Crosby over the past couple of games.  He does not seem to have any hard feelings regarding the play, via TSN’s Mark Masters:

    “It was a weird thing,” said O’Reilly. “You know, it happens. I didn’t expect it and he apologized after the play and it was understood. It just threw me off. I wasn’t expecting anything and then something happens, but he’s a good guy and he is just playing hard and he takes a beating every night too so it happens.”

    He was then asked if he knew who initially hit him, and O’Reilly said he did not until Crosby apologized later in the game.

    “No, I didn’t,” said O’Reilly. I was watching the puck and the next thing I know I had a stick right to the crotch and it threw me off for sure. I got up slowly and turned around to see who it was, and then off the won faceoff he comes up as we’re skating down the ice and says, ‘yeah, sorry about that, I was kind of going for your stick.’ I go, ‘meh, it happens, I guess. Would’ve been nice to have a penalty, but it happens.”

    Crosby was not penalized for either play and received no supplemental discipline from the league. The latter part is not a surprise, and it is not because of some sort of preferential treatment from the league. Since the NHL’s department of player safety has been put into place it has never suspended a player for spearing (it has fined seven players) and suspended only two players for slashing (it has fined six).

    VIDEO: Penguins honor Sidney Crosby for recording 1,000th career point


    This past week Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby became the 86th player in league history to record 1,000 points in the NHL when he assisted on a Chris Kunitz goal in a win over the Winnipeg Jets. He is the 11th youngest player to reach the milestone, doing so at age 29 and making an already massive accomplishment that much more impressive when you consider the low scoring era he has played in.

    Before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Penguins’ first home game since Crosby reached the 1,000 point mark on Thursday night, the team honored with a pre-game ceremony that included a golden stick and a plaque made out of the roof of the old Civic Arena, the building in Pittsburgh that Crosby played in for the first five years of his career.

    Check out the ceremony in the video above.

    This season Crosby is second in the NHL scoring race with 64 points in 51 games, trailing Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid by three points (McDavid has played in eight more games). Crosby also leads the league with 31 goals entering play on Sunday.

    More: Sidney Crosby records 1,000th career point