TORONTO — Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta on Thursday revealed that the lump on his neck was cancerous.
He also said he will be back in the lineup sooner than expected.
Maatta practiced with teammates Thursday in Toronto and again was not fazed by the health scare. He isn’t required to undergo further treatment, as having the lump removed essentially cured him.
“It was cancer,” Maatta said. “But you know what? That was expected. It doesn’t change anything.”
Maatta was informed before the operation that an 85 percent chance existed the lump was cancerous.
Even though it was, the prognosis called for a complete recovery without additional treatment.
Maatta was forced to sit out of practice for 10 days, but coach Mike Johnston said Maatta could return to the lineup “within five days.”
The Penguins play Saturday at home against the Rangers and Tuesday in Montreal, which could be target dates for Maatta’s return.
Although he didn’t participate in many drills Thursday, Maatta doesn’t think he will need long to return.
“I feel normal,” he said. “Obviously, I missed 10 days. I couldn’t do anything for those days. But I’m feeling better every day. I feel good. I want to come back tomorrow. But I’ve got to take it easy at first.
“I want to make sure I’m 100 percent and can help the team when I come back.”
Maatta said the cancer is “nothing but a scar” and that he is “good to go” as long as he feels healthy.
“I look at it as a bump on the road,” Maatta said. “It’s really good that we found it early. It hasn’t really bothered me before. It’s not going to bother me again.
“It’s just another bump in the road. I got over it. I can start playing hockey again.”
Johnston remains cautious with Maatta.
“Today, he took part in some drills. He’s starting to build up,” Johnston said. “We’ll see how he reacts after this skate. I know they (team doctors) want to be cautious just for a few days just to make sure everything’s fine with him.”