Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta will undergo surgery to remove a tumor from his neck that could be a low-grade thyroid cancer. Team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas said a "complete recovery" is anticipated.
The tumor was discovered during preseason physicals. Maatta has been playing with it and is cleared to continue playing until his surgery, which is scheduled for an unspecified date next week.
According to a team doctor, there's an 85 percent chance that the tumor is cancerous, but even if it is, the Penguins said they don't expect that Maatta will require chemotherapy or radiation. Team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas said a "complete recovery" is anticipated.
"In all likelihood, Olli will go on to live a healthy life and this should not affect his ability to play hockey long-term," Vyas said.
Maatta is expected to miss no more than four weeks while recovering. He said at a press conference on Monday that he's handled the news fine.
Maatta: “I don’t think I feel any different. I felt the same as I did before I found out. ... I feel fine.”— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) October 27, 2014
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford called Maatta's performance this season "amazing" considering the circumstances.
“Obviously our first concern is for Olli and his health,” Rutherford said. “He is an outstanding young man and has a tremendous future ahead of him. The doctors tell us that this is a very treatable condition, and that it can be taken care of with the surgery. The Penguins organization will be there for him and support him every step of the way.”
Maatta, 20, has five points in seven games this season and has averaged 20:12 of ice time. He is expected to play in all three of the Penguins' games this week.
The second-year pro played in 78 games as a rookie last season, totaling 29 points and averaging 18:30 of ice time. He finished fifth in the voting for the Calder Trophy and was selected to play for Team Finland at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
- Ben Estes