Penguins notebook: Penguins' injuries boost Maatta's ice time



Olli Maatta, meet Ryan Suter.

Maatta, a Penguins rookie defenseman, has had his ice time increase lately because of injuries to the team's top four defensemen. Going into a game Thursday night against Suter and the Minnesota Wild, Maatta, 19, had played more than 22 minutes in three games in a row and more than 21 in five of the previous seven.

Maatta played a season-high 28:06 Wednesday in a 4-3 shootout win against the New York Rangers. That's not in quite the same stratosphere as the Wild's Suter, who went into a game at Consol Energy Center with an NHL high average of 29:37 and topped 32 minutes in three games in a row.

Maatta's season could stretch in to the triple digits in games if he plays for Finland in the Olympics and the Penguins make any kind of playoff run.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is neither concerned about overplaying Maatta nor planning to have him play this much once some of the injured defensemen return.

"I don't see Olli playing the load he's on right now for any long stretch of time," Bylsma said. "He's a guy who played a lot of games in junior hockey. He's gone to the Memorial Cup final two years in a row, so he's played a lot of hockey. I don't think you're going to see him averaging 28 minutes come the end of this season.

"The 25-game mark, he was in the 15-, 16-minute range and doing a good job. He's gotten to 20 now a couple of times. But he's a young, 19-year-old kid. He should be able to handle it."

Rupp on fighting

The Wild's Mike Rupp, a former Penguins winger, includes fighting in his job description and had some thoughts on the rash of suspensions in the NHL this season.

Specifically, Rupp doesn't see suspensions as deterrents. He pointed to the 15-game suspension given to Boston's Shawn Thornton for an attack on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik in a Dec. 7 game.

"I don't believe that the suspensions are teaching anybody anything," said Rupp, who missed the game Thursday because of an injury. "We see them trying make a point of one player [Thornton] and then ever since [that] game in Boston, I've never seen so many suspensions."

Since that game, the NHL has issued nine suspensions totaling 25 games.

Rupp understands the crackdown is related to a desire to cut down on head injuries.

"The concussions in this league aren't stemming from fights necessarily," he said. "It's from guys taking liberties and trying to just stir things up. I think we can weed that out.

"The game is a faster game now. I guess I'm thinking more in the old-school mentality now. It's not going to be cleaned up if you take away the instigator [minor penalty] rule, but, if you can weed out 30 percent of the guys who aren't going to be as brave in taking shots at guys, then that's a step in the right direction."

Tip-ins

Penguins winger Jayson Megna, who missed a second game since he was hurt Monday, will be out about six weeks, Bylsma said, with what is believed to be a right knee or leg injury. ... Injured Penguins center Evgeni Malkin skated in the morning. ... The Penguins' only healthy scratch was forward Brian Gibbons. Defenseman Deryk Engelland served the third game of a five-game NHL suspension. ... Wild goaltender Josh Harding, among the league leaders with 18 wins, is away from the team while his medication for multiple sclerosis is adjusted. Coach Mike Yeo said Harding is fine and that the adjustment had been planned for some time. ... The NHL holiday roster freeze went into effect at midnight and lasts until midnight Dec. 27. It does not apply to recalling players for injury purposes.

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly.


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