MAATTA MAKING DEBUT
Five of the six defensemen the Penguins are dressing for tonight’s preseason game against Detroit were NHL regulars with the team last season: Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Kris Letang, Deryk Engelland and Simon Despres.
The remaining player, Olli Maatta, is the only prospect that will be on Pittsburgh’s blue line. And he’s a young one at that – having turned 19 last month, Maatta is the second-youngest player invited to training camp.
But although he is just a teenager, expectations are high for Maatta. He was drafted in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft and led all London Knights defensemen in scoring the past two seasons as the team made back-to-back Memorial Cup appearances. His game and his build (6-2, 202 pounds) are already very mature and tonight, Maatta will get a chance to show what he can do in an NHL game paired alongside Norris Trophy finalist Letang.
“He’s a guy who has played a lot of big hockey games; he’s played a lot of important hockey games,” coach Dan Bylsma said of Maatta. “And while he still is a teenager and could go back to junior potentially, he’s a guy who a lot of peopletalk about, scout him and say he’s ready for the next step; NHL-ready. And he’s going to get that opportunity tonight. He’s going to get it next to pretty solid D-pairings and pretty solid people he’s going to play with tonight.”
Though Maatta has put up big numbers in the Ontario Hockey League as a defenseman, offense is not his focus. He says he doesn’t want to try and be flashy; he just wants to play an easy and simple game.
“I don’t really do too much else out there,” he said. “Just a good first pass; solid defense, that’s what I do. (I’ve learned to) just play simple and don’t overhandle pucks as a defenseman. Don’t cheat, like don’t try to join the rush if it’s not there. Just play solid and simple.”
While Maatta does have some anxiety and nerves going into tonight’s game, especially knowing he’s going to be playing against Detroit’s star players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, he’s trying not to overthink it.
“It’s going to be pretty cool,” Maatta said. “But still, I don’t really want to think about it too much. I just want to play my game and leave a good impression.”
The NHL has been testing a “hybrid-icing” rule during the preseason.
Here is the NHL’s definition: “Hybrid icing is a mixture of touch and no-touch icing. It gives a linesman the discretion to blow his whistle and stop the play if he believes a defending player will reach the puck first.”
When the puck is iced, the linesman must make a judgment call on whether he thinks the icing team has a chance to get to the puck first to negate the icing call. If he believes it’s a “no contest” for the defending team, then he is instructed to blow the play dead. However, if he thinks there is a legitimate competition for the puck, he is instructed to let the play go.
Hybrid-icing was used in the American Hockey League last season during the NHL work stoppage. But once the NHL started play, the AHL went back to normal touch-up icing.
The NHL will vote on whether or not to implement the rule at the conclusion of the preseason.
One person that thinks the rule should be adopted is Pens head coach Dan Bylsma.
“The number of times that it happens in a game is not a big number,” he said.
“I watched it in the American Hockey League last year at the beginning of the season in the first half of the year. I like it. I think it still has a chase involved. There is still pressure going back to the puck. There are still times when the forward got to the puck last night first.”
The purpose of the rule is for player safety. If the linesman blows the play dead early with a no-contest puck, then there is less chance of a collision and injury.
“Now instead of the race being to the puck and having a collision possibility in a situation along the boards, it’s to the dot,” Bylsma said. “The four or five times it happened (Sunday) night I thought it worked well. I like it. I hope it continues here and we see the benefit of it.”
CROSBY ON PRESEASON
Tonight will be Sidney Crosby’s first preseason game action. He spoke with the media following practice. Crosby, who said he ideally would like to play in three or four preseason games, discussed what he wants to get out of tonight’s game.
Head coach Dan Bylsma had some updates on the health of his roster.
MORNING SKATE PICS
Crosby gets his first game action tonight.
Hartzell in his newly painted mask.
Paul Wall Martin.
"This. Is. Pittsburrrgh!!"
That stick does not look strong.
--Sam Kasan & Dave Uhrmacher
It looks like Dominik Uher is a late addition to tonight's game. Matt D'Agostini was the only player listed on the lineup sheet that wasn't at practice.
Pittsburgh used the following lines/D-combos...
Orpik-Martin-Letang (the three rotated)
Maatta-Engelland-Despres (the three rotated)
The power-play units...
Letang and Martin on point. Kunitz, Crosby and Jokinen up front.
Despres and Maatta on point. Dupuis, Sutter and Gibbons up front.
HOT SHOT SUTTER
When Brandon Sutter was golfing at the team's annual charity Summer Sticks tournament, he stepped into the magical PensTV Hot Shot Golf video game. Check it out below.
WHO STOOD OUT IN FIRST PRESEASON GAME
The Pens lost their first preseason contest to the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday night - 5-4 in overtime. But despite the setback there were several players that made a good first impression (hint: one of them is pictured below). Click here to see who else looked good in the opening preseason contest.
START THE DAY
Good morning Pens fans! Tonight the Pens will play their first preseason game in the friendly confines of CONSOL Energy Center. They'll host the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. Pittsburgh dropped a 5-4 contest in overtime Sunday in Columbus. Tonight's game can be seen on WPCW-TV. All six preseason games can be seen on TV. Click here for the schedule.
Here are some notes on the Pens' lineup for tonight:
31 ERIC HARTZELL – G
92 TOMAS VOKOUN – G
3 OLLI MAATTA – D
5 DERYK ENGELLAND – D
7 PAUL MARTIN – D
9 PASCAL DUPUIS – F
14 CHRIS KUNITZ – F
16 BRANDON SUTTER – F
22 MATT D’AGOSTINI – F
23 CHRIS CONNER – F
27 CRAIG ADAMS – F
36 JUSSI JOKINEN – F
39 HARRY ZOLNIERCZYK – F
40 NICK DRAZENOVIC – F
44 BROOKS ORPIK – D
47 SIMON DESPRES – D
49 BRIAN GIBBONS – F
58 KRIS LETANG – D
59 JAYSON MEGNA – F
87 SIDNEY CROSBY – F
RED WINGS LINEUP
34 PETR MRAZEK – G
35 JIMMY HOWARD – G
2 BRENDAN SMITH – D
4 JAKUB KINDL – D
8 JUSTIN ABDELKADER – F
13 PAVEL DATSYUK – F
18 JOAKIM ANDERSSON – F
21 TOMAS TATAR – F
22 JORDIN TOOTOO – F
27 KYLE QUINCEY – D
29 LANDON FERRARO – F
37 MIKAEL SAMUELSSON – F
39 ANTHONY MANTHA – F
40 HENRIK ZETTERBERG – F
41 LUKE GLENDENING – F
46 GLEASON FOURNIER – D
47 ALEXEY MARCHENKO – D
51 BRENNAN EVANS – D
53 ADAM ALMQUIST – D
65 DANNY DEKEYSER – D
70 CALLE JARNKROK – F
71 DANIEL CLEARY – F
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