Penguins notebook: No Calder in future for Maatta

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It most likely will be considered an upset if Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon doesn't win the Calder Trophy as this season's top NHL rookie.

The Penguins were hoping defenseman Olli Maatta would be one of three finalists, but Tampa Bay forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat joined MacKinnon on that list Wednesday when it was announced.

Maatta, 19, had nine goals, 29 points and was a regular, steady player all season. He and partner Matt Niskanen served as the Penguins' top defensive pairing at times when injuries knocked out others for stretches. Maatta also had two assists in his first playoff series going into Game 4 against Columbus Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena.

"I'm sure he was in the conversation" for the Calder, Niskanen said. "He's earned that."

Winger and fellow Finn Jussi Jokinen figured with a bumper crop of rookies, Maatta fell victim to the practice of usually awarding a forward the Calder, which is selected in a vote by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

"I think that's how the league works lots of times -- the forwards who get the goals and points get the recognition," Jokinen said.

"We as a team know his value and how good a player he is. We feel sorry for him that he didn't get that recognition that I think all of our team feels he deserves."

Surprised by Kings, Sharks

Los Angeles hardly was a consensus choice to win its first-round series against San Jose, but not many people predicted the Sharks would have a chance for a sweep, either.

Nonetheless, San Jose will take a 3-0 lead against the Kings into Game 4 tonight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi, who spent the previous four seasons in Los Angeles, didn't envision "at all" that the Kings would be in such a predicament.

"I thought [with] their overall commitment to team defense that it would be, if anything, a tighter series," Scuderi said. "But with the guys they have in there and the experience they have, I wouldn't count them out."

Nonetheless, Scuderi suggested that the Sharks have come by their commanding position honestly.

"I think it's a credit to San Jose," he said. "I've watched the majority of the three games, and they just have that look about them.

"They're playing real aggressive, and they're all over [Los Angeles] in every single zone -- not giving them any time and space -- and I guess the results speak for themselves."

Skit gets players' attention

After the Penguins game-day skate, a few players huddled over a borrowed smartphone in a corner of the locker room and got some good laughs watching video of a skit from "The Tonight Show" Tuesday night in which host Jimmy Fallon poked fun at some hockey players' head shot photos.

Many of the Penguins already had seen it. Certainly a couple of their teammates had because they were in it.

"It was a pretty good skit. I like him. He's funny," said Niskanen, who was named by Fallon as the worst at darts because in his preseason photo his eyes don't appear to be looking in the same direction.

Niskanen agreed the photo is a little off.

"I don't know what I could have done differently -- if it was an angle or a shadow or what, but I do look cross-eyed," he said, adding that he didn't know which photographer took it.

"I'm going to find out, though," he said, smiling.

Winger Beau Bennett got taken to task by Fallon as the player most likely to get a penalty for having frosted tips in his hair.

"I can see where they're coming from with the frosted tips, but that is all natural California sun," said Bennett, whose light ends have all grown out.

For a late-night talk-show debut, Bennett cracked, it was a piece of cake.

"I didn't have to do any acting, which was good," he said. "Got the picture up there. It was a pretty cool treat to see [Wednesday] morning on Twitter."

Center Sidney Crosby didn't pick Niskanen or Bennett as his favorite of the three Penguins targeted in the skit. He chose defenseman Simon Despres, who now is in the American Hockey League.

"Second-worst dart player is pretty good," Crosby said.

Tip-ins

The NHL set a start time of 7:08 p.m. Saturday for Game 5 at Consol Energy Center. ... Forward Marcel Goc (ankle injury) was on the ice at the Penguins' game-day skate and, while he did not play in Game 4, coach Dan Bylsma said Goc remains a possibility to play this round. Winger Brian Gibbons (unspecified injury) did not participate in the game-day skate or play.


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.

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