Penguins notebook: Defenseman Olli Maatta fighting for lineup spot
Jusso Riikola skated with the team’s top six defensemen while Olli Maatta did not for the second straight day when the Penguins practiced in Cranberry on Tuesday morning.
This is not a development Maatta is taking lightly. The 24-year-old Finnish defenseman is in a fight for his spot in the lineup, and he knows it.
“What happens happens,” Maatta said. “We’ve got good D men here. Like we talked about all season last season and this preseason, we’ve got eight D who can play in this league. It’s always a competition.”
Riikola impressed Penguins management with his strong two-way game in training camp but was scratched for the first two games of the season. The Penguins gave up a total of 11 goals in those two games. When Maatta was on the ice, they were outscored, 3-0.
“I gotta be better. Definitely not good enough,” Maatta said.
The Penguins have focused primarily on their play without the puck during an intense week of practice that began Monday and will continue through the team’s next game Thursday night at home against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“There’s a lot of scoring chances we’re giving against,” Maatta said. “We’ve got to clean that up.”
Maatta is trying to clean up his own game the only way he knows how.
“Not a lot else you can do but work hard,” he said.
The Penguins are expected to call up Tristan Jarry to round out the goaltending tandem while Matt Murray is out with a concussion. It will be the most convenient call-up of Jarry’s career. He was already going to be in town.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are visiting the Cleveland Monsters for games Thursday and Sunday. On their way to Ohio, they scheduled a stop in Cranberry for a practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Wednesday morning.
Jarry did not play in Wilkes-Barre’s season opener last Saturday after being sent down the day before. He has recovered from a lower-body injury suffered in training camp.
No marquee matchup
When the 2018-19 schedule came out, Thursday’s game looked like another marquee matchup between Stanley Cup goaltending teammates Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Now, it appears neither will play in the game.
While Murray is out with a concussion, Fleury is scheduled to start for the Golden Knights on Wednesday night in Washington. Coach Gerard Gallant hasn’t ruled out playing his 33-year-old netminder on back-to-back nights, but in most cases, back-up Malcolm Subban would get the call in this situation.
An NHL.com reporter asked Fleury if it would be strange to return to PPG Paints Arena only to sit on the bench.
“I guess I sat there a bunch,” Fleury joked.
The Penguins unveiled their new third jersey Tuesday. It has a predominantly gold color scheme reminiscent of the jerseys the team wore for the Stadium Series game against the Flyers in 2017 and as a part of its regular uniform from 1981-84.
The jerseys will be worn 12 times, starting with a Nov. 15 home game against Tampa Bay. When they wear the jerseys, the Penguins will also wear gold helmets.
Defenseman Kris Letang posed for pictures in the new jersey for its social media rollout but quickly shot down any suggestions he might have a modeling career in his future. He said he liked the new gear, though.
“It’s a cool jersey. I really like it,” Letang said. “I like the throwback.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.