The Pittsburgh Penguins raised eyebrows on Sunday when Mike Matheson was a scratch, and defenseman Juuso Riikola skated in his place. Just 12 hours after a national report that the Penguins were interested in Winnipeg Jets RFA Jack Roslovic, the move raised questions of a showcase.
The move also raised questions if Matheson was scratched due to several defensive zone mistakes in the first two games. However, neither of the popular sentiments were true.
UPDATE: According to NHL.com, the Penguins have placed Matheson on the IR retroactive to Friday.
Head coach Mike Sullivan corrected a reporter’s question about lineup changes to announce that Matheson is out with an upper-body injury and will be out for a while.
“Mike was not a healthy scratch. He was injured in (Friday against Philadelphia),” Sullivan said. “Right now, his status is ‘longer-term’ with an upper-body injury. I don’t have a time frame for you yet.”
Philadelphia Nicolas Aube-Kubel hit Matheson dangerously near the end wall in the middle of the third period on Friday night. Aube-Kubel received an interference penalty as Matheson slammed into the end wall.
It isn’t known if the hit caused the injury, but Matheson gingerly left the ice. Here is the hit:
Riikola played just over 14 minutes on Sunday, to mostly positive reviews. It was Riikola’s first NHL game action in over one year.
Riikola dished four hits and was the quarterback for the Penguins’ second power-play unit.
Matheson, 26, was acquired with Colton Sceviour from the Florida Panthers for Patric Hornqvist in the offseason. Including this season, he has six years remaining on his contract with a $4.875 million AAV, according to CapFriendly.
In two games this season, Matheson has four penalty minutes and is a minus-1.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a day off on Monday, but PHN will report additional information as the Penguins make it available. The Penguins beat the Washington Capitals on Sunday, 4-3 in a shootout. It was the Penguins’ first win of the season, and full coverage can be found on PHN.