Maatta plays game No. 9, Pens undecided if they’ll keep him

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Monday night’s “Battle of Coal Harbour” between Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon had another intriguing storyline as well.

Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh’s 19-year-old rookie defenseman, suited up for tonight’s Pens-Avs game — his ninth of the season. That means the club now has a difficult decision ahead: Keep Maatta in the NHL, using up a year of his entry-level deal in the process, or send him back to his junior club in OHL London and “save” a year of his deal.

According to a report in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that decision had already been made. The Trib cited “multiple sources” who claimed Maatta would indeed stick with the Pens for the year but, prior to putting Maatta on the lineup card tonight, Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma refuted the claim.

“It’s not accurate to my knowledge that a decision has been made on Maatta to this point,” Bylsma said. “He’ll be playing in his ninth game tonight. Given the fact that we may be getting healthy in the next game or two, that would end up leaving us with eight defensemen.

“We’ll see how that plays out.”

Maatta has certainly done enough to warrant a spot on the Pens. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound rearguard had three points in eight games coming into tonight, averaging nearly 15 minutes per, thriving with the likes of defenseman Kris Letang sidelined due to injury.

Through two periods of tonight’s game vs. Colorado, Maatta had 9:22 TOI with two shots on goal.