Pens’ Maatta sidelined ‘week to week’

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) plays in an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 17, 2016. (AP)

PITTSBURGH (TNS) – The Penguins received a hard lesson on defensive depth late last season, when injuries ravaged the defense and forced them to play several games with only five defensemen.

They’ll get a refresher course in the upcoming weeks with Olli Maatta being sidelined on a “week-to-week” basis due to an undisclosed injury.

Coach Mike Sullivan provided few details on the injury beyond describing it as “lower body” and saying it happened in the 3-0 home loss Thursday night to the New Jersey Devils. Maatta finished the game and was even on the ice for the contest’s final shift.

Maatta, 21, has played 67 games this season and has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists). Primarily serving as a partner to Kris Letang on the team’s top defensive pairing, Maatta has averaged 19:57 of ice time per game, third most on the Penguins.

Maatta’s absence at practice Friday at Consol Energy Center impacted all three of the team’s defensive pairings. Letang worked with Trevor Daley while Ben Lovejoy was reunited with Brian Dumoulin on the second pairing. Ian Cole, Derrick Pouliot and Justin Schultz rotated on the third.

“We have some ideas on how we’re going to use people,” Sullivan said. “We talked at length about that this morning. We’ll see how it goes.

“Olli is a good player. I think he’s had a good chemistry with (Letang). He’s a guy that we’re going to miss, but having said that, it’s a great opportunity for some of the guys to step in here and fill the void and step up and help this team. We believe we have some depth at defense. We’ve got capable people that we’re going to move into the lineup. It’s a great opportunity for them to help us win.”