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Wild look to end losing streak against Penguins

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com

WILD (18-18-5) at PENGUINS (25-10-6)

TV: NBCSN, ROOT

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins defensive corps has become healthier in recent weeks but will miss one notable name against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

Defenseman Olli Maatta, who has missed 15 games with an upper-body injury, is the last Penguins defenseman remaining on an injury report that once included Paul Martin, Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff. Those three are back in the lineup, but Maatta's return this season is in question.

Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Maatta is undergoing further tests and that it has not been determined if he will miss the remainder of the season at this point.

"It's difficult given his situation and everything he's been through," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "But if there's anybody that can handle it, it's him. It doesn't make it any easier, but he certainly has the right mentality and approaches things the right way."

The 20-year-old defenseman has been plagued with various injuries and illnesses throughout the first three months of his second NHL season. He missed six games in early November to have a cancerous tumor on his thyroid removed. Maatta returned Nov. 18 against the Montreal Canadiens and played 10 games before sustaining an upper-body injury against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 6.

While recovering from that injury, Maatta tested positive for the mumps Dec. 19. In 20 games he has one goal and nine points.

Maatta, a long shot to make the opening-day roster last season, but after a strong training camp an injury to Letang gave Maatta a chance, and he had nine goals and 29 points.

"We've kind of known what's been going on for a while now," Martin said. "We've been hoping he could play, and maybe he couldn't. But he has to make sure he's taking care of his body. He's a young kid so I think we'll definitely miss him. Hopefully he can get it fixed up so he can be back soon."

The Penguins will face a Wild team that has lost five consecutive games and has scored one goal in each of its past two. Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said the Wild cannot expect to play less than their best and have a chance to beat Pittsburgh.

"There's no other way than to work our way out of this," Yeo said. "We can't wait and hope for any help or we can't wait and hope things are going to magically turn around here. We have to be committed to making sure we're the ones to do it."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Thomas Vanek - Erik Haula - Justin Fontaine

Jason Zucker - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Carter

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Christian Folin

Jonathon Blum - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom

John Curry

Scratched: Jordan Schroeder, Justin Falk

Injured: Keith Ballard (facial fractures), Mikael Granlund (wrist), Darcy Kuemper (lower body), Marco Scandella (upper body)

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron

Nick Spaling - Evgeni Malkin - Beau Bennett

Bryan Rust - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie

Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Kris Letang - Christian Ehrhoff

Paul Martin - Robert Bortuzzo

Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Andrew Ebbett, Taylor Chorney

Injured: Patric Hornqvist (upper body), Blake Comeau (upper body), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (upper body), Scott Wilson (leg)

Status report: The Penguins reassigned defenseman Derrick Pouliot to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League on Monday. ... Chorney was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Tuesday. … Scandella has missed three games since being hit in the head with a puck against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 6.

Who's hot: Malkin has one goal and one assist in three of his past four games. He leads the Penguins with 47 points, three more than Crosby. … Cooke, a former Penguin, scored Minnesota's goal in its 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

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