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Penguins notebook: Maatta out six weeks with hand injury

| Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, 11:30 a.m.
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Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta got to spend some time with the Hurricanes' Teuvo Teravainen. The two were teammates in the Finnish national program.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A physical game with the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night took a grievous toll on the Penguins defense corps.

Olli Maatta will miss six weeks after having hand surgery, the team announced Friday morning. Justin Schultz is out with a concussion, coach Mike Sullivan said later in the day.

Maatta was injured on an open-ice hit by 6-foot-5, 205-pound Jets forward Adam Lowry. If Maatta's recovery goes as scheduled, he could return with five games left in the regular season.

Schultz, meanwhile, was driven into the boards by Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (6-5, 260). Sullivan said Schultz is in concussion protocol.

Before the injuries, there was speculation general manager Jim Rutherford would shop for defensive depth before the March 1 trade deadline. The absence of two top-six defenders makes that a more likely possibility.

“We've got a group of players here that we're coaching, and that's where our focus is,” Sullivan said. “Right now, the players that we have is our team, and we're going to coach them as such. We'll take each game as it comes, and we'll go from there.”

Blue line call-ups

To fill in for Maatta and Schultz, the Penguins called up left-handed Cameron Gaunce and right-handed Steve Oleksy on Friday morning.

Oleksy was in the lineup Friday at Columbus along with Chad Ruhwedel, who was a healthy scratch the previous eight games. Gaunce was scratched.

“They both have steady games,” Sullivan said of Gaunce and Oleksy. “They're strong kids. They're good in front of our net. They're good underneath the hash marks. They defend hard, and they have a steady simplicity to their game that I think helps us.”

The Penguins elected not to call up top prospect Derrick Pouliot, who has three goals, two assists, a plus-4 rating and 19 shots on goal in his last eight games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

“We've had him up and down a fair amount here over the last year-plus,” Sullivan said. “We just felt as though, in the discussion that we had, that he's really gaining some positive traction down there, and we didn't want to disrupt that.”

No punishment

No suspensions were levied for any of the hits in Thursday's game, neither the ones that injured Maatta and Schultz nor one delivered by Evgeni Malkin to the head of Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler.

“It's hockey,” Sullivan said. “The league's going to do what they do. We're going to do what we do. We're just going to play the game. It really doesn't matter what our opinion is on it. We're going to play the game hard. We're going to try to play the game the right way.”

If games turn physical or ugly in the future, Sullivan said he doesn't want his team to try to fight fire with fire.

“We've got to play to our strengths,” Sullivan said. “We can't get distracted or deterred by any sort of tactics that teams are going to try to deploy in order to try to get us off our game. We're a skating team. We're a team that likes to play with the puck.”

Top of the charts

The Stadium Series game between the Penguins and Flyers set for Feb. 25 just got its headline musical act.

The NHL announced Grammy Award-nominated band OneRepublic will perform at Heinz Field during first intermission.

Icelandic rock band Kaleo will play at Stage AE before the game. Courtney Daniels, a member of the Los Angeles Kings ice crew who stepped in and sang the national anthem at the All-Star Game when the group Fifth Harmony pulled out at the last minute, will perform the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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