Sullivan: Daley is ‘tough to replace’ but Penguins ‘believe’ in Maatta if he’s called into action


Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t provide any further update on defenseman Trevor Daley, only saying he would be re-evaluated later on Saturday when the team returned to Pittsburgh.

Daley left Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final after suffering a lower-body injury, which forced Kris Letang to pick up 31:38 of ice time for the Penguins in the loss. Any potential loss of Daley could be a huge turning point in this series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Daley has six points in 15 post-season games this year, but has also been averaging 22:08 of ice time. Only Letang, at 29:14, has played more per game for the Penguins in the playoffs.

“He’s a tough guy to replace. He’s a real good player. He’s really helped change our team since he’s come to join our team,” Sullivan told reporters of Daley.

“He’s a mobile guy. He’s got great offensive instincts. He helps us get out of our end zone. He’s a very good player. He’s not an easy guy to replace, but we’ve dealt with that all year. We’ve had a lot of guys go down, key guys, for long stretches of time.”

If Daley can’t play Game 5 on Sunday — the best-of-seven series is tied 2-2 as it returns to Pittsburgh — that could mean the return of Olli Maatta to the lineup.

Maatta has been scratched in the last three games — did he find his way into Sullivan’s doghouse? — after appearing in the series opener.

Sullivan heaped plenty of praise toward the 21-year-old blue liner, saying the Penguins “believe” in Maatta and they have “a lot of confidence in him.”

“We know, when you go this deep in the playoffs, you need your whole team, in the true sense of the word, to have success,” said Sullivan.

“So we’re fortunate to have the depth that we have at that position, and if we have to put somebody into the lineup, someone like Olli can help us win, we know that.”

As for his starting goalie for Game 5, Sullivan said he’ll make that decision Sunday.