By: Casey Shea

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) –Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maataa will miss about four weeks due to a surgical procedure to remove a thyroid gland tumor.

According to a statement from the team, Maatta will undergo surgery next week to remove the potentially low-grade cancerous tumor from his neck.

The 20-year-old defenseman has been medically cleared to play until the surgery. He is expected to miss four weeks. More importantly, he is expected to make a full recovery.

“I feel healthy, I feel fine. The only thing that’s different is now I know I maybe have cancer. You know what, it’s tough news, but I don’t think it has really affected me much,” Maatta said.

“If there was any health concern, we’d never put anybody into the lineup. But, our doctors told us he wants to play, he’s going to play and we’ll determine the procedures over the next couple of weeks as to how we’re going to handle this,” head coach Mike Johnston said.

During a press conference Monday afternoon, team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas said the tumor was discovered during training camp.

“Thyroid tumors can be common in the young population. The way we found this in Olli is a simple examination that was done by one of our team physicians,” Dr. Vyas said.

Dr. Vyas said followup testing led them to believe that there is an 85 percent chance the tumor is cancerous.

“I haven’t really been that worried. I’ve been talking to doc a lot and the trainers trying to find out everything I can about the cancer. I know I’m going to be fine and I haven’t really been that worried about it because I know we have a great medical staff here and they’re going to take care of me,” Maatta said.

Through seven games this season, Maatta has one goal and four assists.

“Watching a young man continue his life and play the way he’s played is absolutely amazing. It’s amazing that he can still concentrate and continue on,” General Manager Jim Rutherford said. “I can’t say enough about Olli about how he’s handled this news.”

“I remember the very first game I said to Gary Agnew on the bench, ‘Keep a close eye on Olli, this is going to be a tough couple of games for him to go through.’ And he didn’t blink an eye,” Johnston said.

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