Defenseman Olli Maatta skated with the team for the first time since getting injured on a hit from Brooks Orpik in Game 2 on Friday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
“I feel good,” said Maatta, who was wearing a yellow no-contact jersey. “This is the first step to being back playing with the team. I’m happy with the progression we made.”
However, head coach Mike Sullivan said he wasn’t optimistic that Maatta would be ready for Saturday.
“Olli is making progress, but we don’t envision him playing in Game 5,” he said.
Maatta was asked his thoughts on the hit that injured him, which the NHL Department of Player Safety called forceful, unacceptably high and excessively late and earned Orpik a three-game suspension.
“It’s done and over with,” Maatta said. “I don’t think it really matters. We just have to focus on the next game. It’s going to be a tough one. It’s always the toughest one.”
Maatta did appreciate that Orpik reached out to him after the play.
“He was definitely sorry about it,” said the 21-year-old, who was teammates with the veteran blueliner during his rookie season in 2013-14. “He was one of the guys I looked up to my first year.”
While Maatta likely won’t be ready to play tomorrow, one player who will be is forward Eric Fehr – who practiced on Friday after sitting out Game 4 with an undisclosed injury.
“I feel good,” he said. “I had a good practice, and I’m ready to go.”
When asked if he was surprised to miss the game, Fehr declined to go into specifics.
“You want to be in. This is a fun time of the year to be playing, and you definitely want to be a part of it,” he said. “It was tough to watch, but the guys did a great job. They fought the whole game. I really liked watching our D. The way they shared the lance and really stepped up. I thought they played an unbelievable game.”
Bryan Rust was the only expected player missing from the session, and Sullivan said it was just a maintenance day for the winger.
LETANG READY TO RETURN
Defenseman Kris Letang was back on the ice with his teammates after serving aone-game suspension for his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3.
“It was fun to be a part of a practice with all the guys and just forget about what happened and ready to go to work,” he said.
Ben Lovejoy joked the other night that Letang better be well-rested as they would expect him to play 42 minutes in his return. And he’s more than ready to do so.
“I think it’s probably the last time I want to watch a hockey game from the top,” Letang admitted. “It’s so nerve-racking, and you want to be out there.”
He couldn’t say enough about the job the guys on that blue line did making up for his absence.
“They did an unbelievable job,” he said. “They made a lot of sacrifices on the ice. They played a great team game.”
In their first round matchup against the New York Rangers, the Pens’ power play was a dominating force. They tallied eight goals in five games, and in their 3-1 victory in Game 3 all three of their goals came on the man-advantage.
Although the Pens are currently holding a 3-1 series lead over Washington, the Caps’ penalty kill has managed to keep Pittsburgh’s power play scoreless in the first four games.
“I think up to this point, I guess it hasn’t affected the outcome,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “I think that we know in the playoffs that (special teams) is a big part of the game. And I think that we understand it’s got to be better, but we can look at it in the way that we’re fortunate it hasn’t been the difference. We need to make a few adjustments and make sure that it is the difference moving forward here.”
Crosby was asked to explain the differences between the Rangers' and Caps' penalty kills.
“They kill a little bit different,” Crosby said. “They’re a little bit more passive, but the power plays just all about executing. That’s what it comes down to, and we have to do a better job of that.”
The Pens have been unable to convert on 14 power plays in the first four games of the series, but again, they have still found ways to win so they are not overly concerned with that current statistic. That being said, they trust that if they keep doing the right things the power play will eventually get back on track.
“Just to get our confidence back by shooting the puck, making sure we’re making crisp plays out there,” Letang explained. “And once we get the chance and the goal we’ll get our confidence back, and we’ll get going.”
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole was in attendance for the Pens’ 3-2 overtime win in Game 4 on Wednesday, and appeared to have a phenomenal time.
Wearing a No. 87 jersey, Cole was absolutely fired up. In addition to starting a “Let’s Go Pens!” chant when the team showed him on the video board, at one point Cole – who was seated by the Caps bench – had to be talked to by an usher after repeatedly booing the enemy.
His less successful older brother Ian (he said it, not us) saw it and appreciated the devotion.
“The first thing I said was why is he wearing that bum Crosby’s jersey?” Cole joked. “What I liked even more so was that he was yelling at the opposing team’s bench. I loved the intensity.”