After a nine-game absence, LA Kings defenseman Olli Maatta returned to the lineup, helping the silver-and-black to a much-needed victory.
He hasn’t had the smoothest of transitions upon joining the LA Kings this season but Olli Maatta has nonetheless proven that he remains an important piece to the club’s current defensive corps. The Finnish blueliner proved just that on Saturday night in San Jose, returning to the lineup after a nine-game absence.
Sidelined with an upper-body injury back on Mar 21, Maatta had just one assist in 24 games this season. Upon his return on Saturday, though, the 26-year-old recorded his second helper on the campaign, assisting on Andreas Athanasiou‘s goal that regained the Kings’ lead.
The goal proved to be crucial as it helped propel the Kings to a 4-2 win, and a rare victory against the Sharks this season.
Following Saturday’s win, Andreas Athanasiou touched on the goal, on a play originally orchestrated by Maatta, and how important having the veteran defenseman back in the lineup was.
“We were kind of just rolling around there in the O-zone,” Athanasiou noted. “We made some good plays and opened up the zone, and kind of just snuck back-door, and I was kind of wide open and Carts made a perfect pass. I just had to tap it in. Through all five guys, we kind of– I think we all touched the puck at one point that shift. So, it was good when those things happen.”
In addition to his assist, Maatta logged 19:10 of total ice time on Saturday evening, although he did take an interference penalty late that led to a Sharks goal. Still, Maatta’s return to the lineup was a solid one as the two-time Stanley Cup champion displayed exceptional defensive awareness, resulting in a hit and three blocked shots, stymying an otherwise-daunting Sharks attack.
These efforts did not go unnoticed by the Kings coaching staff, especially Todd McLellan.
“I thought he was an important addition to our team,” emphasized the Kings head coach. “He’s got some poise back there, and he’s played in these situations before, so he’s worked hard to get back earlier than we thought he would, and he had a pretty admirable game.”
With just 16 games to go in the regular season, it is imperative for the LA Kings to step up their collective game. For Olli Maatta, in particular, his wealth of late-season and playoff experience should come in handy at this juncture of the season.
To suggest that every game for the Kings from here on in is important is, frankly, unnecessary. It bears repeating nonetheless.
Olli Maatta was mainly brought to Los Angeles for his experience and veteran leadership. The time is now for the Kings and for Maatta himself to see what they are made of.
His return was promising but we will now see what more Mr. Maatta has in store.
The next test for Maatta and the Kings begins on Monday night at STAPLES Center against the Vegas Golden Knights.