What will Maatta fallout be?

Dave Molinari 8 years ago

The Penguins have dressed the same 20 players for the first seven games this season.

That streak might make it all the way to 10 before Olli Maatta undergoes surgery to remove a tumor, which doctors says has an 85 percent chance of being malignant, next week.

The early prognosis is that he will need a recovery time of about four weeks, although Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, the Penguins’ team physician, said that timeframe includes a “buffer” in case there are unexpected complications during or after the surgery.

Losing Maatta for most of November certainly will be a setback for the Penguins – at 20, he is one of their most responsible and effective two-way defenseman, and is counted on to contribute in every situation – but doesn’t have to be a season-altering one.

Here are some likely short-term repercussions of his absence:

*** Robert Bortuzzo, out since the preseason with a knee injury, could get clearance to resume playing as early as Thursday, according to coach Mike Johnston. Bortuzzo is a logical candidate to step into the lineup void that will be created by Maatta’s departure and, because he adds a physical element that few of the Penguins’ defensemen do, might well have made it into uniform even if Maatta’s condition hadn’t opened a spot for him.

*** Before the Penguins depart on a five-game road trip that begins next Tuesday in Minnesota, at least one defenseman will be recalled from their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre. Scott Harrington is the most obvious choice to get the call, and might even get a chance to show what he can do if the Penguins bring him up. Harrington definitely looks ready to play at this level; it’s unfortunate that it might take a teammate’s medical misfortune to give him an opportunity to prove it.

*** Veteran Paul Martin might regain some of the ice time and responsibilities he has lost this season. His playing time is down, primarily on the power play, and Martin clearly has been put in a reduced role by the new coaching staff. His understated effectiveness hasn’t suffered, however, and there’s no reason to think that he couldn’t take on an expanded workload and handle it capably.