Monday's Catch Up & Lunch Links 10/27

Monday, October 27, 2014

Plenty to catch up on after this weekend's games in the AHL, but the big story today is some unsettling news about Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta. Maatta has a tumor on his thyroid gland that is believed to be cancerous.

The team released a statement on Maatta this afternoon:
“Olli will have surgery to remove the tumor,” said Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, the Penguins’ team physician. “Even if it is found to be cancerous, we do not expect that he will need radiation or chemotherapy, and we anticipate a complete recovery. In all likelihood, Olli will go on to live a healthy life and this should not affect his ability to play hockey long-term.”   
Maatta, 20, has been cleared to play until the time of the surgery.
Maatta has known about the tumor since training camp and few teammates even knew about it before today's release. The fact that he has played through this and plans to play the rest of this week before his surgery next week is a testament to his maturity and character. He also has been one of the Penguins' most steady defenseman this season. Maatta is expected to have a full recovery in about four weeks and have no ill-effects long term.

After the jump, updates on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Lehigh Valley Phantoms after their first three games in three nights sets of the season. The Penguins and Phantoms meet Wednesday night at the PPL Center.

Also, former Penguins forward Paul Bissonnette has found a new home, a preview of all 30 AHL teams and more.

Penguins Start and Finish Weekend With Wins

The Penguins started the weekend off with a bang, shutting out Brian Gibbons and the Springfield Falcons 5-0 on Friday night. Matt Murray stopped all 21 shots he faced for his first career AHL shutout, Bryan Rust tallied three points (2G-1A) and Nick Drazenovic added two goals in Hynes win.

The Penguins got behind early and couldn't stay out of the penalty box in falling 4-1 to Hershey the next night in what was the Bears' home opener. Jayson Megna tallied the lone Penguins goal in the loss.

The Pens rebounded with a bounce-back 3-2 win over the Binghamton Senators Sunday at home, and at 4-4-0-0 through eight games, look to take sole possession of second place in the East Division when they meet the Phantoms Wednesday night.

ROSTER NOTES - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Rookie goaltender Matt Murray got his first win of the season and his first AHL shutout all in one in Friday night's 5-0 win over Springfield.

Eric Hartzell got his first start of the season Sunday and also picked up a win, stopping 21 of 23 shots against Binghamton on Sunday.

Jeff Zatkoff remains out and is week-to-week with a lower body injury.

With Olli Maatta undergoing surgery next week and Robert Bortuzzo ready to return, the NHL Penguins will likely need a seventh defenseman for depth purposes.

Scott Harrington has switched between the AHL and NHL early on this season, yet he hasn't seen any NHL action.

Derrick Pouliot has returned to action, making his regular season debut with the AHL Pens Tuesday night in Albany. Pouliot seems to be getting more comfortable with every shift, and he had a strong game on Sunday netting his first pro goal and adding an assist in the Pens 3-2 win over Binghamton. He also is close with Pens head coach Mike Johntston, who coached Pouliot in juniors with the Portland Winterhawks (WHL). Could Pouliot and Harrington be auditioning for a call up after this week?

Injuries are already taking a toll on the AHL Penguins, as Nick Drazenovic joins the injury list after leaving Saturday night's game in Hershey. He is listed as week-to-week per WBS head coach John Hynes.

Forwards Conor Sheary (lower body) and Josh Archibald (upper body) both missed all of last week's games. Archibald should be nearing a return and looking to make his 2014-15 regular season debut as early as this week.

With rookies Sheary and Archibald out of the lineup, other first year forwards have stepped up in a big way. None have been as impressive as Bryan Rust, whose six points (4G-2A) in eight games leads the team.

Jean-Sebastien Dea is second on the team in points with five (2G-3A) despite only appearing in six of the team's eight games this season.

Wild Weekend Nets Phantoms Four Points

The Phantoms have been a fun team to watch through six games and this weekend was no different.

The weekend started with the recall of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to the NHL with Philadelphia. Gostisbehere made his NHL debut Saturday against Detroit.

The Phantoms looked like they were six minutes away from opening the weekend with a 2-1 loss to Hershey before tallying goals on three straight shots in a span of 1:53 to steal a 4-2 regulation win over the Bears.

Adversely, the Phantoms looked well on their way to a 4-2 win Saturday night in Binghamton before the BSens tallied two goals 8.7 seconds apart in the final 15 seconds to force overtime. Luckily for the Phantoms, Scott Laughton tallied the game-winning goal with 1:20 left in OT to preserve the 5-4 win.

Injuries, call ups and a suspension caught up the the Phantoms in their 3-0 loss Sunday in Hershey. Forward Petr Straka joined Brett Hextall on the injury list after Friday night's game. Defenseman Mark Alt suffered an apparent shoulder injury in the first period of Saturday's game and did not return, leaving a thin defense even more shorthanded.

Jay Rosehill was suspended three games for an unpenalized check to the head of an opponent in Friday night's game. Rosehill served the first game on Sunday, and will also miss the team's next two games including Wednesday night's match against the Penguins.

More on the Phantoms wild weekend coming in this week's issue of The Home News.

ROSTER NOTES - Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Rob Zepp improved to 4-0-0 on the season after picking up wins Friday and Saturday night. Rookie Anthony Stolarz has played well despite his 0-2 record, allowing five goals in his two starts.

Defenseman are taking a hit with the loss of Gostisbehere to the NHL and the injury to Alt. Rookie Robert Hagg is getting more ice time and the 19-year-old Swedish born defenseman handled the increased role very well this weekend.

Up front, Scott Laughton continues to impress with his ability to get the puck into scoring areas and tally some important game-changing goals. It's only a matter of time before he gets a chance with the Flyers.

Nick Cousins has consistently been one of the team's top forwards, leading the Phantoms with eight points (2G-6A) through the first six games.


Former Penguins forward Paul Bissonnette has signed with the AHL's Portland Pirates, staying in the Arizona Coyotes organization.

This season at Hockey's Future, I previewed every American Hockey League (AHL) team by division and ended up with 12,896 words on AHL teams and players spread out amongst six articles. Stay tuned to Hockey's Future for league-wide updates on all of the top prospects in the AHL all season long. 


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