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Cam Talbot excelling with heavy workload for Oilers

Goalie showing no signs of fatigue as playoffs near

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- Fresh is more than a state of mind for Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot.

The 29-year-old has made the most starts in the NHL this season (64), has played the most minutes (3,801) and says he isn't tired of being asked if he's tired.

He bounced his own question and a wide grin back at reporters after shutting out the Vancouver Canucks 2-0 at Rogers Place on Saturday.

"How do I look?" Talbot said.

The answer is sharp. He had just earned his sixth shutout of the season with 33 saves against the Canucks. His record is 36-20-8, with a goals-against average of 2.35 and a save percentage of .921. Talbot has started 11 straight games and all but three Oilers games since Dec. 9.

Video: VAN@EDM: Talbot robs Granlund with glove stop

He will keep on playing, most likely until the Oilers (38-24-9) clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Chances are high he'll be the only goalie in the League to reach or surpass 70 starts this season.

The better questions are, why he isn't tired, and did he expect he might be worn out having played this much with three weeks remaining in the regular season?

"I've always had a pretty good work ethic and I got to sit behind one of the best in the world and watch his work ethic for two years," said Talbot, who was Henrik Lundqvist's backup with the New York Rangers for two seasons (2013-2015). "So I always try to model myself after that. I watched him in practice, and that just made me want to be better and work that much harder. I've always kind of carried that forward, that if I did get an opportunity, I'd be ready for this.

"I did a good job preparing myself."

As Lundqvist's backup, Talbot was a good student.

When Lundqvist was injured by a puck to the throat and missed seven weeks, (Feb. 4-March 26, 2015), Talbot went 16-4-3 with a 2.21 GAA and a .928 save percentage. He started 22 of 24 games in Lundqvist's absence down the stretch and helped the Rangers finish with 113 points and the Presidents' Trophy.

It was a relatively small sample size, yet pointed to some ability and readiness to handle such a workload.

"It was different to carry it over two months, knowing you're going right back to the bench [when Lundqvist got healthy], as opposed to now, where I know that night in and night out I'm going back into the net," Talbot said. "You can never be too sure. You want to be confident in yourself. But I still had something to prove to myself, and to this organization when they traded for me. I think I've done a pretty good job of that."

Talbot, in his second season as the Oilers No. 1 goalie, said his mental development has been no less important.

"Knowing you're going to be in there night in and night out, you can't let a bad goal get you down," he said. "I think that's a big challenge in goaltending, keeping your mind right and coming to the rink and flushing the game the night before and being ready to play at a high level the next game.

Video: PIT@EDM: Talbot makes a sliding stop to deny Dumoulin

"[Lundqvist] was really good at that. If he had a bad game or a bad period even, if they fired 20 pucks at him the next period, he was going to make 20 saves. That's another thing I took away from him; it was his work ethic, his mentality, how he approached the game."

Oilers coach Todd McLellan said he's carefully monitoring Talbot's energy level, but continues to express confidence in playing his No. 1 goalie so often.

"The group plays for [Talbot], not with him, and that's a huge thing for goaltending," McLellan said. "He's a key piece."

Is he worried about fatigue?

"For one, he's in great shape," McLellan said. "He's an efficient goaltender. He's not all over the place. Between whistles, he's not having a séance. He's resting and relaxed and he's trained for it. He's played a lot of games. He knows what to expect and how to manage it."

Talbot's teammates are aware their goalie has made the most starts in the League this season, faced the most shots (1,884) and made the most saves (1,735). They don't sound worried about the workload.

"I'm not really surprised about it," defenseman Oscar Klefbom said. "He's probably the one goalie I've seen that's in such good shape. He's in the gym all the time. He's really smart because if you're going to play that many games, eventually you're going to get hurt if you're not in good shape. But he's so professional, takes care of his body all the time.

"When you don't know him and don't know what good shape he's in, it's tough to understand that he's playing every [game]. He does everything he can to stay fresh and to stay professional."

Oilers center Mark Letestu said Talbot's stability and sharpness has given them one less thing to worry about this season.

"If you can stay inside your bubble and worry about your own game, you'll be that much better," Letestu said. "He's been the last line for us, and [Saturday] was a perfect example of that. There were some breakdowns and it wasn't a perfect hockey game. The 2-0 shutout seemed perfect the way he played, and he was the most deserving first star of a game in the past while here."

Video: MTL@EDM: Talbot kicks out pad to turn aside Shaw

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