Penguins notebook: Maatta believes Kessel, Letang will crack World Cup rosters by June 1 deadline
March 4, 2016 12:00 AM
Penguins' Phil Kessel is a two-time Olympian, but was left off of Team USA's initial roster for the World Cup of Hockey.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
There were some notable omissions from the Penguins this week when preliminary rosters for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey were released.
Phil Kessel, a two-time Olympian, was left off of Team USA’s initial roster of 16, which was the most glaring one.
Likewise, defenseman Kris Letang was not named to Team Canada.
Defenseman Olli Maatta, who said he is honored to represent Team Finland, suspects that might change by June 1 when seven more players will be named to each team.
“Absolutely it’s surprising the season they’re having and the players they are that they didn’t make the roster,” said Maatta. “But you’ve got to remember it’s only 16 players. It’s not the final roster yet. There’s still spots available. I think they’re going to be there.”
Kessel, who was not available for comment after the morning skate, is a contender to make the team.
Letang was in good company. Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who won gold with Canada in the 2014 Olympics, also was an not on the initial roster.
He said he was not surprised and has no expectations of getting the call or not by June 1. “I kind of expected that,” Letang said. “I have no expectations [moving forward].”
Marc-Andre Fleury also was not chosen to play for Team Canada, though Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby and Carey Price obviously are worthy.
Sidney Crosby, named to Team Canada, said he looks forward to the tournament, which will be in September in Toronto.
“Being able to represent your country and having that opportunity? Just really happy to be part of it,” said Crosby.
Matt Murray, named to Team North America, said he figured he might be on the bubble but had no clue he was selected until general manager Peter Chiarelli called him Wednesday morning. “It was exciting. I didn’t really know they were going to announce the team so it was kind of out of nowhere,” said Murray. “It’s a huge honor.”
Maatta is looking forward to the World cup competition. “That tournament is going to be great. It’s a little different to play with the guys you normally play against. I think that’s what makes it fun too, representing your home country is always an honor.”
New defenseman impressed
Newly acquired defenseman Justin Schultz skated with the Penguins Thursday morning but did not dress for the game against the New York Rangers.
Coach Mike Sullivan said he wants Schultz to get a full practice in and get more acclimated with the system before throwing him into a game.
“Justin will see some time very soon,” said Sullivan. “He hasn’t skated in a few days. He really hasn’t had an opportunity to spend any time with us as far as understanding how we’re going to play. We thought it made the most sense in order to put him in a position to be successful that he has an opportunity to practice with us before we put him in.”
Schultz, traded from Edmonton, said he met a few of his new teammates Wednesday night and went to dinner with some, but he was still meeting players after the morning skate.
His recollection of the Penguins as an outsider, was notable. “A lot of speed,” he said. “I remember this year, my first game back from my injury was against the [Penguins] and I was out there. I had missed a month. I was like ‘Holy crap, this is fast.’ They’ve got so much skill up front and their back end is so solid it’s going to exciting to play with.”
Schultz and goalie Jeff Zatkoff were healthy scratches. … Sullivan made one minor line change to his bottom six, bumping Scott Wilson up to the left wing on the third line with center Nick Bonino and right winger Bryan Rust. Wilson brings more speed to the line than Tom Kuhnhackl, who was landed on the fourth line with Matt Cullen and Kevin Porter. “I think we’re obviously making subtle tweaks to our line combinations to see if we can get more,” said Sullivan. “Our bottom-six guys I think have brought us a lot, they bring us energy. They’re hard to play against. They’ve chipped in offensively. They’ve generated a fair amount of scoring chances. It’s just the coaching staff making some tweaks to see if we can get more.”
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.
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