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Penguins notebook: Defenseman Maatta likely to return soon |

Penguins notebook: Defenseman Maatta likely to return soon

NHLI via Getty Images
Olli Maatta, Penguins
NHLI via Getty Images
Patric Hornqvist (72) of the Pittsburgh Penguins poses for his official headshot for the 2014-2015 season Sept. 18, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

Defenseman Olli Maatta missed Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers, but Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Maatta’s return is not far away.

Perhaps as soon as Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

“As far as health goes, he’s basically there,” Johnston said of Maatta, who had surgery Nov. 4 to remove a cancerous tumor from his thyroid. “We’ll see (this) week if he can play in Montreal.”

Maatta’s original timetable to return was four weeks.

Maatta skated Tuesday for the first time since surgery, practiced with teammates in Toronto on Thursday and skated on his own for 80 minutes Friday.

Johnston said Maatta skated before the game Saturday but didn’t say for how long.

“We’re going to give him a couple more days,” Johnston said. “We want to make sure that he’s really sharp when he comes back.”

• Johnston said he didn’t have a problem with Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf’s hit on Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist from Friday. “I thought it was a clean hit,” Johnston said. “My first reaction was I thought it looked high. I thought it looked dangerous. Certainly when you look at it again, it was a fine hit. There was nothing wrong. He had his shoulder down on the hit.” Johnston also didn’t have a problem with Evgeni Malkin engaging Phaneuf to stick up for Hornqvist, even though there was 2:14 left in a one-goal game. “When players stick up for each other, you have to compliment them,” Johnston said. “You don’t want to kill a penalty at that time, but to stick up for a teammate when you thought it wasn’t a (clean) hit … Geno did a good job sticking up for his teammate.”

• Defenseman Kris Letang will co-chair the Pittsburgh Heart Walk on Sunday at Heinz Field. FedEx Ground CEO Henry J. Maier is the other chair. Letang is a stroke survivor. Doctors found a hole in his heart, known clinically as a patent foramen ovale or PFO.

• Brandon Sutter, who took a puck off an ear Friday and received stitches, played Saturday. Same for fellow forward Blake Comeau, who missed Friday’s game with the flu. Zach Sill was a healthy scratch for the second time in three games.

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