The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost defenceman Mike Matheson for an indefinite period of time. The 26-year-old has suffered an upper-body injury of some sort. He played in the team’s first two games, but missed the third, a victory over the Washington Capitals. Tom Gulitti of NHL.com relayed news of Matheson’s injury Sunday afternoon.
Pens coach Mike Sullivan said Mike Matheson has an upper body injury and will be out "longer term"
He was not a healthy scratch today.
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) January 17, 2021
Penguins Lose Mike Matheson
Matheson was off to a quiet start for 2020-21. He had no points and just two blocks in the team’s first two games while averaging 15:52 per contest. His last extensive action came in 2019-20 with the Florida Panthers where he scored eight goals and 20 points in 59 games. Matheson was also credited with 44 hits and 53 blocks with an average of 18:02 of ice time. The Panthers sheltered him heavily with 87.5 percent of his starts coming in the offensive zone, but he still posted an average Corsi For of 49.7 percent and -.6 relative score.
The Panthers originally drafted Matheson in the first round of the 2012 Draft, but his first notable action didn’t come until 2016-17. He scored seven goals and 17 points in 81 games in that full rookie season. Overall, he’s been a fine defender with 33 goals and 91 points in 299 games. He also has 230 hits and 441 blocks. Matheson hasn’t necessarily lived up to his draft position, but there’s still some time for him to be a top-four blueliner.
How Pittsburgh Replaces Matheson
Pittsburgh used Juuso Riikola for the first time in the game against Washington and that could continue. The 27-year-old Finn had four hits in 14:31 of ice time. One other move would be to shift veteran Cody Ceci back into the starting lineup despite his inability to contribute much on either offence or defence. Finally, Pittsburgh has Pierre-Olivier Joseph on its taxi squad if they are feeling adventurous. A long-term injury certainly not a situation they want to have this early into the season.