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Penguins praise Maatta's maturity, set to face Devils

by Wes Crosby

DEVILS (4-2-2) at PENGUINS (4-2-1)


PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta will play Tuesday, as expected, a day after it was announced he would undergo surgery to remove a tumor from his neck.

Maatta skated in his normal pairing with defenseman Kris Letang and will most likely remain there during the Penguins next three games, staring Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils. His surgery is scheduled for next week, when Pittsburgh begins a road trip, and is expected to keep him out of the lineup for four weeks.

The Penguins reacted to Maatta's condition for the first time Tuesday. Several players remarked on Maatta's maturity, including Letang, who faced a health scare when he had a stroke last January.

Letang said he spoke with Maatta to offer any advice he could.

"We talked a little bit. I just told him that I went through a similar situation last year," said Letang, who missed time after having a stroke. "I was seeking for help, sometimes from the outside. It's tough to sometimes talk about it in the media or in the team; you like to have your private stuff to stay private.

"I would say it needs to come out of him and [he needs to] make sure mentally he's past that point."

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Maatta is as "tough as they come" and forward Pascal Dupuis, who said he was unaware of Maatta's condition before Monday, said Maatta has handled the news impressively.

"I was out of the loop," Dupuis said. "Obviously, by seeing him play and the way he approached every game, the way he prepared, you couldn't even tell something of that magnitude was happening. He's a real pro as a hockey player and even a stronger person."

Maatta and the Penguins will face a Devils team coming off an overtime win against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday following four consecutive games without a win (0-2-2). New Jersey began its season by winning its first three games.

The Devils bring a 4-1-0 road record into the game at Consol Energy Center.

Forward Mike Cammalleri, who is second on the Devils with seven points and leads them with five goals, did not travel to Pittsburgh and will not play Tuesday. Cammalleri was elbowed in his jaw against the Dallas Stars on Friday, but finished that game and played Saturday.

Forward Reid Boucher was recalled from the American Hockey League on Monday and is expected to play his first NHL game of the season Tuesday. He had two goals and seven points in 23 games for the Devils last season.

"I feel good, I feel more in shape than I did last year," Boucher said. "I can play a full 60 minutes, competing hard. Last year, I kind of fell off toward the end of games, but this year, I feel good."

Here are the projected lineups:


Dainius ZubrusTravis ZajacJaromir Jagr

Ryane ClowePatrik EliasDamien Brunner

Reid BoucherAdam HenriqueMichael Ryder

Tuomo RuutuJacob JosefsonStephen Gionta

Andy GreeneDamon Severson

Bryce SalvadorMarek Zidlicky

Eric GelinasJon Merrill

Cory Schneider

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Adam Larsson

Injured: Mike Cammalleri (jaw), Martin Havlat (lower body), Jordin Tootoo (foot)


Chris KunitzSidney CrosbyPatric Hornqvist

Pascal DupuisEvgeni MalkinBlake Comeau

Nick SpalingBrandon SutterSteve Downie

Zach SillMarcel GocCraig Adams

Olli MaattaKris Letang

Christian EhrhoffPaul Martin

Rob ScuderiSimon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: None

Injured: Beau Bennett (lower body), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body)

Status report: Bennett, who joined the Penguins for their morning skate Tuesday, could return sometime next week, Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. Bortuzzo, who has also been out with a lower-body injury, is expected to play within 5-6 days. … New Jersey placed Havlat on injured reserve Monday. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said he expects Havlat and Tootoo, who is also on IR, to start skating by the end of the week.

Who's hot: Dupuis has scored a goal in each of his past two games and is tied with Malkin and Kunitz for third on the Penguins with three goals. Malkin, who is second on Pittsburgh with 10 points, has scored one point in each of his seven games this season. … Henrique has scored two goals and four points over his past four games. He scored at least one point in three of those four.

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