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Talbot - who will start against Stars tonight - excited to get back between the pipes a bit earlier than he expected

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

Forgive the guy for being caught a bit off guard. 

"I got the news, officially, yesterday," Cam Talbot said starting tonight in the finale of a four-game homestand. "Billy (Peters) told me I'd be getting the start coming up…

"I just assumed it might be on a back-to-back again this weekend," he continued with a laugh, to the roar of the media. 

It was a light-hearted moment that showed just how appreciative Talbot is for the opportunity tonight. 

He is, after all, the ultimate team guy who works awfully hard behind the scenes to ready himself. 

Talbot, who's gone long stretches between games thanks to the MVP-caliber goaltending of David Rittich thus far, sports a 1-3 record, an .899 save percentage and a 2.85 goals-against average in four starts this year. 

With all but one coming in a back-to-back scenario. 

"I don't like to make excuses," Talbot said. "Sometimes that plays into it, but that's why I was brought in. I've got to come in here and come up with big games in the second half of back-to-backs with travel. Doesn't matter if it's a week between games or two weeks between starts, it's my job to make sure I'm ready. 

"I'm looking forward to the challenge again tonight."

Talbot last appeared 10 days ago, stopping 28 of 32 shots in a loss - on the road - to the Washington Capitals. 

While Head Coach Bill Peters admits the back-to-back assignment can be a "disadvantage" for puck-stoppers, he credits Talbot for handling the situation like the pro. 

"I think he's been real good," said Peters. "Typically, that's what happens in back-to-backs. That's the nature of the business. They've got a tough job, but (Talbot) has done real well with that. 

"He's had a great week of practice and I think both goaltenders are in a real good spot right now - lots of quality work with (Goalie Coach Jordan Sigalet) Monday and Tuesday, so we're set up real well with our team and with our goaltenders."

So, the time was right. 

With 20 games in the first 38 days of the season, the Flames have had, by far, the busiest calendar of any team in the NHL. 

In fact, even after getting the past three days off, only two other teams - the Edmonton Oilers and Detroit Red Wings - have equalled that total, with two-thirds of the circuit's 31 squads playing fewer than 18. 

With that comes a heavier workload that needs to be managed.

As excellent as Rittich has been, the 16 appearances he has to this point have him on pace to play 65 games. For context, only two goalies last year eclipsed that mark - Devan Dubnyk (67) and Carey Price (66).

Rittich, meanwhile, has never come close to that number in his pro career. Last year, he played 45 games (the latter half with a bum knee), while his most-ever came during the 2015-16 campaign when he appeared in 48 for Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Extraliga.

Talbot, who was leaned on heavily in the past during his days with the Oilers, knows the value of a strong support system better than most. 

He needed to be a good pro - to stay ready, maintain a positive influence in the dressing room despite not playing every day, and, most importantly, be the ultimate friend to his padded partner in crime.


Video: "Nice little surprise I was getting in"


"There's no other way to approach it," Talbot said. "That's always been my mindset from Day 1. 

"Come to the rink every day, be a good teammate first and foremost. Support the guys, support Dave - make sure that I'm ready when I get the opportunity. 

"That starts in the gym, starts on the ice - getting out early, staying out after with the guys - anything that's going to make you successful in the next start.

"It's still a privilege to be in the NHL. As far as I'm concerned, I'm here to help this team in any way that I can. If that's helping the guys battle that much harder in practice just to score on me, then so be it. That's my job right now and I'm looking forward to another start. 

"In between, that's all I can do."

With the red-hot Dallas Stars on tap, Talbot is eager to play behind a rested Flames team, and approach this affair in a more ideal way when it comes to his game-day prep.

"The past few days we've put in some good work," he said. "I think that's exactly what we needed. We played a lot of hockey in the first 20 games this season, so it's nice to get the day off, then get a couple days of practice under our belt to work on a few things, and come in a little more refreshed.

"They're a deep team. It starts with the big two guys, and then you bring in a guy like (Joe) Pavelski for the powerplay, and Corey Perry's healthy now - he wasn't the last time we played them - so, they have so many weapons up front, and their backend does a good job getting pucks to the net and letting those guys do their jobs. 

"It's going to take a good team effort tonight and I'm going to have to do a good job controlling my game and limiting those second chances."

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