Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta will have surgery to remove a tumor from his thyroid gland, it was announced by General Manager Jim Rutherford and team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas on Monday afternoon.
Vyas said that the tumor was discovered during pre-season physicals. The prognosis for Maatta’s recovery is good, and he should be able to return to the lineup about a month after the procedure, which is scheduled for next week. Maatta will play up until he has the surgery.
“Olli will have surgery to remove the tumor,” Vyas said “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.”
Maatta, 20, had just started his second season with Penguins. He scored a goal last Thursday night in Detroit and also has four assists while playing in all seven games this season. He has averaged 16:12 of ice time, which is fourth on the team amongst defenseman. He also has played 3:13 per game on the penalty kill, which leads the teams’ defensemen.
Maatta also had shoulder surgery this offseason. When he had the surgery at the end of May, he was expected to miss four to six months. He missed all of training camp and the preseason, but was in the lineup for the regular season opener, just over four months later.
In 2013-14, he led all Penguins rookies with 78 games played, nine goals and 20 assists. He finished third in the NHL in scoring amongst rookie defensemen, and fifth in voting for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL’s rookie of the year.
Candidates to replace Maatta in the lineup would be Robert Bortuzzo, who is returning from an injury, and rookie Scott Harrington, who has been up and down between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barrre/Scranton, but has yet to see game action for Pittsburgh this season.
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