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Daley and Maatta's Familiarity Helping In Return

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Defensemen Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta are very familiar with each other's game. 

After all, the duo was paired together for most of the regular season and are once again skating alongside one another in the postseason as the Pens build a 3-0 First Round series lead on Columbus.

"They're good players. They have some chemistry," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "They've played together a fair amount so there is familiarity there. I think they have a good understanding of how we're trying to play."

Daley and Maatta suffered injuries late in the regular season that held them out of the lineup until the final games.

Daley missed 20 games following knee surgery, but returned for the final three regular-season contests. Maatta was out for 24 games with a broken hand, but came back in the Pens' final regular-season game.

"To their credit I think they worked extremely hard in the rehab process to get back in the lineup. They were prepared," Sullivan said. "I give our medical staff and strength and conditioning guys so much credit. We have great people in those positions that help our guys get back into our lineup so that when they do get into the lineup they're ready to play."

Now that both players are back from long-term injuries, they've quickly found the chemistry they had for the bulk of the season.

"We played a lot together. It didn't really take that long to get back into it," Maatta said. "(Daley) talks a lot off the ice and we talk about plays. He's really simple and easy to play with. He's in the right spot all the time."

Daley and Maatta are still trying to work through some rust and timing on the ice. They benefited from getting into a few games at the end of the season to work on those aspects before the playoffs began.

"It was really important to get that one game before the playoffs, just to get that timing back," Maatta said.

"I didn't like the (regular-season) games before. I didn't have the jump I wanted to have coming back," Daley admitted. "When you come back from injury this close to playoffs I didn't know what to expect. I wanted to be better right away. But I don't think in any case when you come back you're better right away. As the games go along I'm getting better and better."

Timing is certainly important for both players, but Daley is also simultaneously trying to regain strength in the muscles in his knee, that were inactive for a long period of time following surgery.

"Muscle takes the longest to come back," he said. "I'm just getting that back. As the games go along you get your timing back. But I'm feeling pretty good."

The Pens did not practice on Monday and instead had an off-ice workout. Daley is using days like these to improve his strength.

"I'm using the days in-between to get more strength than ice time. It's been working pretty well," Daley said. "I think I'm getting close to there. Every night I'm feeling better and better. I'm using days like this to build some strength. I'm feeling a lot better."

Last season, Daley missed the last nine games of the postseason, including the entire Stanley Cup Final, due to a broken ankle. His goal is to get help the Pens in their title defense, and this time be there to play.

"I want to get back to where we were last year and have a chance to do it again," Daley said. "It's exciting. Every night we're moving closer to that, but there's still a lot of work to be done."

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