Penguins notebook: Olli Maatta plays after all

PENGUINS NOTEBOOK



NEW YORK -- Penguins rookie defenseman Olli Maatta was a surprise absentee Sunday at the game-day skate, raising the possibility that Deryk Engelland would take his lineup spot in Game 6 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

But Maatta joined his teammates for the pregame warm-up and was able to play. The Penguins did not immediately indicate why Maatta missed the skate.

Engelland has not played since the penultimate regular-season game, April 11 at Philadelphia, but he proclaimed himself ready to step in if or when the Penguins need him.

"The last series I played was against Boston" a year ago in the Eastern Conference final, he said. "That's probably as intense as you're going to get."

Successful debut

Whitehall native John Gibson didn't just make his Stanley Cup playoff debut Saturday night for the Anaheim Ducks.

He made history.

Gibson, 20, turned aside 28 shots in Anaheim's 2-0 victory against Los Angeles in Game 4 of their Western Conference second-round playoff series to become the youngest goalie in the NHL to ring up a shutout in his first postseason appearance.

He also is just the second goalie to record shutouts in his first start in the regular season and playoffs. The other was Boston's Tiny Thompson in 1928 and 1929.

Gibson established himself as the Ducks' goalie of the future not long after being drafted in 2011, but the timetable for him taking over as Anaheim's go-to goalie seems to have been accelerated.

With good reason.

"It's not the first time he's come in and played well for them," said Jeff Zatkoff, 26, the Penguins first-year goaltender. "He played a great game for them. Obviously, there's a little more pressure ... but he's done the job for them and he's played great in the [American Hockey League] playoffs for Norfolk.

"Obviously, he has a lot of talent. Everyone knew that. ... He came in, he played great, and I thought the team really rallied around him, too."

Thornton incident discussion

Despite knowing that Boston was a possible opponent in the Eastern Conference final for whichever team advanced -- or perhaps because of it -- the Penguins and Rangers were a bit reluctant to talk before Game 6 about an incident involving Bruins winger Shawn Thornton.

Thornton was fined $2,820.52, the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement based on his salary level, for unsportsmanlike conduct in Game 5 Saturday of the Bruins-Montreal series.

In the final minute of Boston's win, Thornton, from the bench, squirted water onto the visor of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban as he skated past.

"It's not a dirty play. They're trying to just get under their skin," said Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, although he added that, "Out of a respect factor for playing the game, it doesn't happen very often."

Staal began using a visor after an eye injury. He and others acknowledged that having water sprayed onto the outside of a visor while play going on could be an impediment.

"You wouldn't be able to see very well," Staal said, then smiled. "It depends on how good he got him."

Penguins forward Joe Vitale shied away from offering an opinion on Thornton's actions, but agreed that it could temporarily limit a skater's ability to play.

"It definitely impairs your vision when you get water on your visor," he said. "And then it smears when you try to wipe it."

Thornton said he "got caught up in the moment."

Locker-room 'lows'

Jussi Jokinen stepped up onto the seat of his locker stall to stow his helmet after the game-day skate. A couple of his teammates made a calculated toss.

As part of renovations at Madison Square Garden, the visiting locker room that the Penguins use for games were revamped. The shelves and cubbyholes above their seats are much higher than in any other NHL arena.

"We were trying to figure out if this was a basketball locker room," said defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. "The showers are pretty high, too, so I figured that's probably what's going on."

Bortuzzo, who is 6 feet 4, can place his helmet on the top shelf above his head without much trouble -- as long as he's wearing his skates.

"It's tough for some of us and not so tough for others," said Penguins winger Brian Gibbons, who sat next to Bortuzzo for games at MSG in this series and is 5-8. Gibbons and Joe Vitale were among those who didn't even try to get their helmets on the top shelf where they usually are kept; they hung them on a hook meant for a skate but within easy reach.

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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