Penguins notebook: Refreshed Maatta happy to have break from action
Olli Maatta said a day off was what he needed.
The 19-year-old rookie defenseman was given the day off Friday in Columbus, which was followed by Saturday's off day for the Penguins.
He was in bright spirits after staying away from the ice for two days.
“It helped a lot,” he said before Sunday's game. “I haven't had many days off since Christmas. I really feel fresh, physically and mentally. I feel hungry again. I'm excited to get back out there.”
Maatta was back in the lineup Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Coach Dan Bylsma made it clear after the Penguins' 2-1 win against Columbus on Friday that Maatta was a scratch because the team felt he needed a rest and not because management was disappointed with Maatta's play.
Still, there had been a noticeable decline in the rookie's play the past two weeks. He is a minus-4 since the Olympic break, which didn't serve as a break for Maatta. He played seven games in 11 days for Team Finland before immediately resuming his duties with the Penguins.
“And his minutes have been higher in the second half of the season,” Bylsma said.
The Penguins also made Maatta a healthy scratch Dec. 31 in New Jersey. He responded with some of his finest play of the season.
“I've got to get back to my game: playing simple making easy passes,” Maatta said.
Maatta said the coaching staff approached him about taking a day off and that he never would have made such a request. Still, he was pleased the coaches gave him Friday off.
“Sometimes when you watch the game from up top, you see different things,” he said. “You actually have more time than you think you have. When you see it up top, it's really good for you.”
• Center Joe Vitale skated before Sunday's morning skate but his return to the lineup is not imminent. Bylsma said Vitale is considered “week-to-week” with a “mid-body” injury.
• The Blackhawks played without two of their most important forwards against the Penguins. Forwards Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell were out. Kane is out until the playoffs. Bickell is day-to-day.
• Defenseman Simon Despres was a healthy scratch against the Blackhawks.
— Josh Yohe
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
- Penguins notebook: Johnston calls Quinn ‘phenomenal’ coach, person
- Fleury collects career win No. 300 in crucial game against Bruins
- Finding balance between toughness, excessiveness key for Penguins’ Downie
- Mears savors success, credits legendary Lange for guidance, inspiration
- Penguins minor league notebook: Pouliot impresses early in season
- Replacing versatile Dupuis could prove difficult for Penguins
- Starkey: Pens move on with, without Dupuis
- Penguins notebook: Dupuis’ absence will alter roles on penalty kill
- Penguins defenseman Maatta makes his return in win over Canadiens
- Penguins’ Dupuis diagnosed with blood clot in lung
- New assistant Agnew has Pens’ PK, defense among league’s best