Toronto, ONTARIO -- Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta rejoined the team for practice Thursday afternoon at the MCC Centre, just 10 days after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on his thyroid gland.
“It was cancerous, but that was to be expected,” Maatta said. “It doesn’t change anything. That’s what it looked like before the surgery.”
Maatta took part in the majority of the drills at practice. While he’s eager to get back in the lineup, the team is being cautious.
“I want to come back (Friday),” Maatta said with a smile. “I have to make sure I’m 100 percent and can help the team win when I come back.”
Penguins head coach Mike Johnston expects Maatta to return sooner than later.
“If he reacts positive to the skate today and the doctors take a look at him over the next day or so,” Johnston said after practice, “he could be back in the next 5-6 days.”
Maatta, 20, skated Tuesday on his own in New York following the team’s morning skate. It was his first time back on the ice since the surgery.
“I didn’t do anything for 10 days because of the surgery, but I’m getting better every day. My body feels pretty good,” Maatta said.
In training camp team doctors discovered a tumor on Maatta’s thyroid that had an 85-percent chance of being cancerous. Surgery was recommended, which took place Tuesday, Nov. 4.
Maatta, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick (22nd overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, has one goal and six points in 10 games this season for the Penguins.
The Pens shuffled their line combinations for practice. The triumvirate of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis was reunited. Patric Hornqvist was paired with Evgeni Malkin, a duo the coaching staff wanted to work together before the season started.
“I’m excited,” Malkin said. “(Hornqvist) is a great shooter, good linemates. We’ll work together. Tomorrow is a new game, new lineup. I’m excited.”
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