PITTSBURGH — With Olli Maatta expected to make his return to the lineup Tuesday, the Penguins’ defenseman is ready to move on from the Brooks Orpik hit.
“I don’t want to talk about that anymore,” Maatta said. “We have a big game tonight and that’s what matters.”
But with Orpik set to make his return from suspension for the Capitals as well, it’s bound to be a talking point.
“It gives them one more solid experienced D man back there but we have a guy coming back here tonight that will help us, too,” Nick Bonino said.
Orpik was suspended three games for a late, high hit he delivered to Maatta in Game 2. Maatta has been out since, but he was a full participant in practice on Monday and is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday.
“It’s good to see [Maatta] back," Carl Hagelin said. "He’s a really good player. He’s got a lot of poise with the puck and overall he’s a really good hockey player."
But while the Penguins are excited to get their blueliner back, much of the talk on Tuesday morning was about the return of Orpik for the Caps.
"He’s been around for a long time, a really steady D for them," Matt Cullen said.
Orpik missed 41 games in the regular season and the Caps didn’t seem to miss a beat as they went on to capture the Presidents’ Trophy for the NHL's best record. In the playoffs, however, his impact is undeniable.
The Caps have played 11 games this postseason and Orpik has missed six of them due to injury or suspension. With Orpik in the lineup, Washington has a 4-1 record. Without him? Just 2-4.
Coincidence? The Penguins don’t seem to think so.
"He’s a really good player," Eric Fehr said. "He’s a physical player. He defends the front of the net well. For a bunch of guys trying to get there he’s a tough guy to battle in front. He definitely helps their team."