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Penguins to rely on new guys during playoff run

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Did you know? Olli Maatta produced 6 goals and 12 points in 25 games for which he played at least 20 minutes.

22: Playoff games in which the Penguins allowed 2 or fewer goals from 2008-09

0: Goals scored by Stempniak in 11 playoff games

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, April 13, 2014, 10:18 p.m.
 

From Bryan Trottier to Rick Tocchet to Bill Guerin, the Penguins' Cup clubs always needed the new guys.

Seven players to appear in a game last postseason are not part of this playoff puzzle for the Penguins. However, two defensemen — one fresh faced, the other familiar — and a deadline-acquisition winger are poised to make an impact in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

OLLI MAATTA

A late training-camp injury to defenseman Kris Letang provided Olli Maatta an opportunity to make this Penguins squad in September. He proved he belonged in the NHL over the next seven months.

Maatta, 19, established himself as one of the league's top rookies — and an all-time Penguins teenager; which is saying something considering that group includes Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Sidney Crosby — by rarely looking his age. As injuries rocked the defense corps, Maatta coolly handled responsibilities normally reserved for players with a lot more experience.

The most tenured Penguin saw Maatta's emergence coming.

“That kid doesn't play like he's 19,” Brooks Orpik said in October.

Maatta did not play like he was 19 when the Penguins needed to use him on the top pairing in November or December. He did not play like he was 19 for bronze medalist Finland at the Winter Olympics in February.

The Olympics did not provide the surest indication that Maatta had the special stuff. That came in early January after he was a healthy scratch for the first time.

Penguins coaches rested him for a game at New Jersey because his performance had slightly slipped. Maatta arrived at the next practice about 30 minutes earlier than usual. He promised coaches his play would pick up.

The Penguins played the New York Rangers in their next game. Coaches graded Maatta as the best defensemen for that contest.

LEE STEMPNIAK

Acquired from Calgary only a few minutes before the trade deadline expired, Lee Stempniak brought necessary NHL experience to a team that needed it. Injuries had forced the Penguins to play younger or grinding wingers on captain Sidney Crosby's top line. Stempniak filled in well there upon his arrival, but his postseason assignment will be to bring some scoring to a third line that has lacked offensive punch.

ROB SCUDERI

Postseason hockey is about grit, determination and what feels like hand-to-hand combat. Rob Scuderi is built for the playoffs. As was the case on the Penguins' 2008-09 Cup Final runs — and in Los Angeles, where he won another Cup and last season played in a conference final — Scuderi makes his impact on the penalty kill and around his goalie's crease. Maybe even in it.

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Penguins' Olli Maatta plays againt the Coyotes in April 2014 at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins' Olli Maatta plays againt the Coyotes in April 2014 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Lee Stempniak (22) fights for the puck as he plays on Sidney Crosby's line against the Blues on Sunday, March 23, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Lee Stempniak (22) fights for the puck as he plays on Sidney Crosby's line against the Blues on Sunday, March 23, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Rob Scuderi returned to Pittsburgh after spending four seasons with the Los Angeles Kings. He won a Stanley Cup with the Kings.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Rob Scuderi returned to Pittsburgh after spending four seasons with the Los Angeles Kings. He won a Stanley Cup with the Kings.
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