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Penguins notebook: Maatta leaves lasting impression with Selanne

| Friday, March 7, 2014, 9:39 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Olli Maatta scores a second-period power-play goal as the Canadiens' Thomas Plekanec defends Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — While Ducks icon Teemu Selanne was busy guiding Finland to the bronze medal at the Sochi Olympics, he couldn't help but notice the 19-year-old defensemen who played like someone so much older.

It's safe to say that Penguins rookie defenseman Olli Maatta made quite an impression on Selanne.

“He played against the best in the Olympics, and he was so calm,” Selanne said. “He didn't look like a first-year player.”

Maatta hasn't looked like a first-year player for the Penguins, either, moving himself into the discussion for rookie of the year honors.

Some in the organization had feared that the Olympics could contribute to the fatigue that is usually inevitable for someone Maatta's age playing in the NHL.

Instead, the Olympics appear to have strengthened him.

He scored twice against the Sharks on Thursday and has nine goals while playing arguably the steadiest defensively among any of the Penguins defensemen.

“His hockey sense and his positioning is amazing,” Selanne said. “The whole package is there. He is fun to watch.”

With defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin out of the lineup for a lengthy period, the Penguins are relying heavily on Maatta, often playing him against the opposition's finest players.

He doesn't seem rattled, which doesn't surprise the 43-year-old Selanne.

“Off the ice,” Selanne said, “his preparation is truly professional. Great kid. It was a pleasure getting to know him.”

Bortuzzo misses game

The Penguins were forced to play on Friday in Anaheim without defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who was injured in Thursday's game against the Sharks.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said that Bortuzzo is “day-to-day” with an upper-body injury but did not elaborate.

Bortuzzo played only 4:20 in the first period against the Sharks before departing.

His inability to play, according to another Penguins defenseman, may have played a significant role in the Penguins' 5-3 loss.

“Obviously, the Sharks are a really good team, and they were coming at us with a lot of speed and they were physical,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “But playing against that team in that building with only five defensemen wasn't very much fun.”

When the Penguins had six defensemen at their disposal against the Sharks, they carried the play.

However, in the final two periods, the Sharks unloaded on the undermanned blue line, producing a number of turnovers.

Bortuzzo had pleased the coaching staff with his physical play in recent weeks.

“I feel good about my game,” he said a day before the injury.

Fearing for the worst

Defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who has become a regular contributor on Anaheim's defensive unit after years of sporadic work with the Penguins, was surprised to see Sidney Crosby register a minus-5 rating against the Sharks.

And he wasn't expecting to see such a thing two games in a row.

“Sid doesn't go minus-5 very often,” Lovejoy said. “He's going to have a response game. We'll take the brunt of it.”

Say Yes

Penguins director of communications, Jennifer Bullano, was the focal point of a new episode of TLC's “Say Yes to the Dress” on Friday night.

The episode was shot two years ago in New York City on the day Crosby returned from his second bout with concussions during the 2011-12 season.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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