The Pittsburgh Penguins announced defenseman Justin Schultz is expected to be sidelined for four months after fracturing his lower-left leg. Schultz suffered the injury against Montreal on Saturday after colliding with Tomas Plekanec and falling awkwardly along the boards.
This is how Justin Schultz fractured his leg. Surgery. Out four months. pic.twitter.com/9COrH9aBUh
— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) October 15, 2018
Schultz reportedly underwent successful surgery to repair the fracture on Sunday. The 28-year-old had already picked up four assists through four games this season.
Injuries have hampered Schultz since his 51-point breakout campaign in 2016-17. He missed 19 games last season with a concussion and a lower-body injury, finishing with 27 points in 63 games. The injury is a major blow to the depth of the Penguins’ blueline. Schultz is the primary fill-in for the oft-injured Kris Letang. Olli Maatta, who has notably struggled so far this season, will be forced into a larger role in the absence of Schultz.
Maatta has registered no points, a minus-3 rating, and a disastrous 41.5 CF% in three games this season. He was made a healthy scratch for last Thursday’s game against the Golden Knights after Pittsburgh surrendered 11 goals in their first two games. The Penguins now need Maatta to regain his form from last season when he picked up seven goals and added 22 assists over a full 82 games. He should man the point on their second powerplay unit so long as Schultz is out.
Fellow Finnish-blueliner Juuso Riikola is also due for an uptick in ice time. The 25-year-old rookie is averaging around 18 minutes a game this season after signing with the Penguins last May. He registered eight goals and 16 assists in 59 games for KalPa Kuopio of the Finnish Elite League last season. Lastly, Jamie Oleksiak is expected to draw back into the lineup on Tuesday and skate with Jack Johnson.