The Penguins held an optional practice on Sunday morning at CONSOL Energy Center. Eleven players participated: Craig Adams, Chuck Kobasew, Chris Conner, Deryk Engelland, Olli Maatta, Robert Bortuzzo, Harry Zolnierczyk, Dustin Jeffrey, Matt D’Agostini, Kris Letang and Jeff Zatkoff. With Marc-Andre Fleury getting the day off, manager of team services Jim Britt filled in as the other goalie.
Head coach Dan Bylsma said today was a maintenance day for several players and he had no comment on his lineup for Monday’s game against Colorado.
However, Bylsma did point out that D’Agostini (lower body) and Letang (lower body), who both have yet to play this season, had another full practice with the team.
Letang has been skating with his teammates since Friday, Oct. 11. The first few times he only participated in 30-minute intervals; then progressed to full team practice on Wednesday, Oct. 16. And while Bylsma said Letang is “close” to a return to game action, they have to make sure he is 100 percent before he plays and they are not going to rush him.
“We’re just going on the progression of him with the injury that he did have and received to make sure he’s at a 100 percent when he gets back in there and not rush it back,” Bylsma said. “So going through practices, evaluating how he does through the practices have been a big part of his progression the last week.
“He’s close. He’s certainly done a lot on the ice, but through (Saturday), he wasn’t at the point where we were 100 percent confident with him playing in a game.”
Bylsma added that forward Beau Bennett (lower body) skated this morning for his longest duration yet.
Rookie defenseman Maatta may have had a big game last night in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 shootout win over Vancouver – scoring his first NHL goal at a crucial moment in the contest – but that didn't keep him from getting right back on the ice this morning for practice.
“It was a goal, but you have to get better,” he smiled.
The puck from that once-in-a-lifetime moment was sitting in his locker stall, marked with all of the details from his goal in silver Sharpie by head equipment manager Dana Heinze. Maatta he said he only had to give a “little speech” to receive it.
“It’s my first goal; there’s only one first goal,” he said. “So it’s something really special for me. I will remember that. That was an awesome feeling.”
What makes it even more special is that his family and friends back home in his native Finland were able to watch his goal in real-time.
“(My parents) were pretty happy. I talked to them, I talked to my billets back in London too,” he said. “It was good timing because everybody was able to watch it back home, it was a 9 o’clock game there. So it couldn’t be better. All my friends watched it; that was awesome.”
The puck Olli Maatta scored his first NHL goal with (courtesy of Dana Heinze)