Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maatta Sits among Top Scoring Rookies

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maatta Sits among Top Scoring Rookies

Article excerpt

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's not an aspect of his game that the Penguins' Olli Maatta holds up and points to.

"I don't really take as much pride in my offensive game," he said. "I'm a defenseman. I try to not give up any scoring chances by the opposing team."

Yet this 19-year-old has thrust himself into some elite company.

Going into a game Saturday night against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, Maatta was one of eight rookie defensemen in Penguins history to reach 20 points.

Maatta's 20 came on five goals, 15 assists. And while some of those points might have come on memorable plays -- such as his go- ahead goal Jan. 23 against the New York Islanders, when he cut in from the left circle and scored on a backhander -- he modestly figures most were of the more routine variety made possible by high- end teammates.

"Some of the points have definitely been breakout passes, just giving the puck to the forwards, getting the puck with speed so they can get up the ice with good speed," he said.

Maatta entered the Coyotes game tied with Alex Goligoski for seventh place for points by a Penguins rookie defenseman.

Zarley Zalapski ranks first. He had 45 points as a 20-year-old rookie in 1988-89. Behind him are Ryan Whitney (38, 2005-06), Doug Bodger (31, 1984-85), Jim Johnson (29, 1985-86), Paul Stanton (23, 1990-91) and Michal Rozsival (21, in 1999-00).

The only one on the list who was younger than Maatta as a rookie was Bodger, who was 18.

OLYMPIC THEME BURNS

For the fourth game in a row, the Penguins faced a goaltender who is headed to Sochi, Russia, this month for the Winter Olympics.

Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith is part of Team Canada.

On Thursday night, the Penguins chased Los Angeles and American goalie Jonathan Quick in a 4-1 win. Monday, they bested Buffalo and American goalie Ryan Miller, 3-0. Those two apparently are the top contenders to be the No. …

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