NEW YORK -- Nobody around the Pittsburgh Penguins seemed shocked to see defenseman Olli Maatta in full practice gear going onto the ice at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, exactly seven days since he had surgery to remove a potentially cancerous tumor from his thyroid gland.
"I think this is what they expected, but obviously with Olli you feel it's going to be earlier with him," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "That's what we've gotten used to with the way he works and the way he heals."
Maatta skated on his own following the morning skate. At the time of his surgery it was expected he would miss four weeks. Penguins coach Mike Johnston did not deviate from that timeline when he spoke about Maatta Tuesday morning.
"We'll see what happens as far as a timeline goes for him participating with the whole team, but it really is amazing how he handles things," Johnston said. "I just think for a young kid it's more the mental side of things, how mature he is and how he's able to deal with issues like that."
Johnston said Maatta wanted to ride the exercise bike three days after his surgery, but he had to be held back for precautionary measures. He rode the bike on Monday, and Tuesday was the first time he skated since the surgery.
"He's an amazing individual," Johnston said. "You see what he's gone through and how he handles things, mentally and physically, it doesn't surprise me."
The tumor in Maatta's thyroid gland was discovered during training camp. He played the first 10 games before having his surgery.
At the time of Maatta's surgery team doctors said it was possible the tumor was a form of low-grade thyroid cancer and results of the pathology testing to determine if the tumor was malignant would be available within 7-10 days.
Penguins team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas said at the time that even if the tumor is found to be cancerous they do not expect Maatta will need radiation or chemotherapy.
"I think it's just great to see him out there," Crosby said. "You know how much he misses it and how hard he works. It wasn't easy hearing that news a while ago, but I think he feels great and mentally he seems like he's awesome. Just happy to see him out there."