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Penguins notebook: Maatta has plans to remain on roster

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By Josh Yohe
Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 9:30 p.m.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma doesn't want to speculate about it.

Defenseman Olli Maatta will try to force the coach's hand.

Maatta will begin the season with the Penguins, who have two choices. The organization can decide to keep the 19-year-old defenseman for the season, or, before his 10th game is played, they may opt to return Maatta to his junior team, the London Knights.

“This is my opportunity to show that I can play the whole season here,” Maatta said. “That's my goal.”

Maatta was drafted 22nd overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he has displayed a brand of two-way hockey that clearly has delighted the Penguins.

The player drafted eighth overall by the Penguins in 2012, defenseman Derrick Pouliot, has been sent to his junior team in Portland. Because of Maatta's rapid progression, and the reality that defenseman Kris Letang is starting the season on injured reserve and defenseman Simon Despres was sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton partially because of salary-cap reasons, the Penguins want to see just how far he has come.

“I knew I played well during camp,” Maatta said. “I knew I played well in the exhibition games. I knew I might have a chance to have a few games up here. Hopefully I can stay here. I just want to keep improving my game, and we'll see.”

Some of his teammates already are convinced.

Defenseman Paul Martin, whose smooth game is remindful of Maatta's, is impressed.

“He is prepared,” Martin said. “He moves the puck at the right time. He doesn't try to do too much. He's going to have a long NHL career.”

Maatta's maturity is something that hasn't gone overlooked. Many Penguins have commented that on and off the ice, Maatta composes himself in a rare manner for a teenager.

“He's got all the tools,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “The kid has a great future ahead of him. He's got the right attitude. He's definitely on a good path.”

Maatta, who doesn't turn 20 until August, isn't eligible to play at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season because of his age.

Letang's return soon?

Letang will miss the season's first two games, but according to Bylsma is eligible to come off injured reserve before the Penguins host Carolina on Oct. 8.

This does not, however, guarantee that Letang will play that night.

Still, this seems to represent good news for the Penguins, who initially feared that the injury Letang suffered last weekend at West Point could be serious.

Bylsma said the injury doesn't appear to be “long term.”

Meanwhile, it remains unknown how long goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) will be out.

Kobasew quiet

The Penguins still haven't reached a deal with forward Chuck Kobasew, who could be in uniform Thursday against New Jersey should a contract agreement be reached.

Kobasew refused to comment on the situation other than to say, “I'm here for as long as they want me.”

Hybrid icing passes

The NHL will use a hybrid icing system, which should prevent collisions in races for icing, beginning this season. Most of the team's defensemen and coach Dan Bylsma are in favor of it. But some of the forwards, notably Tanner Glass, are very much opposed to it.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at orvia Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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