Olli Maatta has had Nov. 9 circled on the calendar for a while now. It's the first time he'll be back in Pittsburgh since being traded to the Blackhawks in June for forward Dominik Kahun.
"Obviously I have a bunch of good memories there," Maatta said. "Really exciting times. I knew when we were going there."
Maatta was drafted by the Penguins in the first round (No. 22 overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft and won two Stanley Cups during his six-year tenure in Pittsburgh. He played a large role in the second of the back-to-back in 2017 particularly, averaging 20:37 of ice time in the postseason because the Penguins were without top defenseman Kris Letang for the entire playoffs.
The road to the Stanley Cup is always memorable when going through those ups and downs, but who you share them with is what you really remember.
"It's really exciting," Maatta said. "I think that's the one [thing], it's going to be nice to see the people there, all friends there."
The Blackhawks acquired Maatta to help shore up their defensive issues following a season in which they gave up the second-most goals and ranked 31st on the penalty kill. Only Duncan Keith (85) has more defensive zone faceoff starts at even strength than Maatta (77), who has also logged 32:01 of ice time on the penalty kill, good for fifth-highest on the team.
Maatta has brought some stability and experience on the back end defensively, even though his overall possession numbers haven’t been great.
"Yeah it'll be big for him going back, no question — a lot of history there and a lot of success," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I'm sure he'll be good, he'll have some energy and be excited about it. He's been solid, he's been dependable. Like our whole team, there's been ups and downs at times, but I just really like [that] he knows what he is — he's here to defend and kill penalties and be solid and that's improved our D core."
When Maatta was traded to the Blackhawks, he saw many parallels between the Penguins leadership group of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Letang and the Blackhawks’ of Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews.
All of them have three Stanley Cups, but nobody is satisfied. The hunger to win another one is at an all-time high and Maatta wants to taste that kind of success in Chicago now.
"There's a lot of similarities when I came here, when you see the guys that have been around here," Maatta said. "Just the work in they put in every day and what kind of pros they are at first. But then they want to win. It just seems nothing's enough if you don't win, you always have to try and find a way and that's what it's been and I could see the same thing here."
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