“How’s it feel?” asked Craig Adams to his stallmate, Blake Comeau, who sat surrounded by cameras and microphones after the Penguins’ 4-1 win over Detroit on Wednesday at CONSOL Energy Center.
Comeau had just returned from sitting out seven weeks and 20 games with an upper-body injury, but you’d never know it with the way he played.
“(I had) a little bit of nerves, but a lot of adrenaline,” Comeau said. “Once I got that first shift out of the way, I got back into the game and got the nerves out of me and just played.”
On that first shift, skating on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, Comeau registered an assist just two minutes in. He then scored a goal of his own just over 10 minutes after that.
“I thought ‘Horny’ (Patric Hornqvist) did a great job and ‘Geno’ (Evgeni Malkin), they were both flying so it made my job easier,” Comeau said.
“On my goal, Horny’s forechecking created a turnover and I was just in the right spot. I was happy with how the timing felt.”
The work of Comeau and his linemates set the pace for the rest of the game.
“(Comeau) was unbelievable for us," Hornqvist said. "I think our first period was one of the best of the year. (Detroit is) a really good first period team, but we took it to them tonight. I think we won the game right there.“
Comeau is a big, physical guy who’s got speed and loves to shoot the puck, and he brought all of those attributes – which made him so successful earlier in the season – back to the ice tonight. Comeau used his skating to create space for himself to make plays, and also wasn’t afraid to get greasy and get into tough areas around the net, an ability that paid off in his goal.
Head coach Mike Johnston liked the way Comeau, Malkin and Hornqvist picked up right where they left off in terms of chemistry despite not having played together in such a long time.
“They’re straight line guys, they go with speed,” Johnston said. “The big thing is chemistry and you’ve got a guy who goes to the net in Hornqvist. You’ve got ‘Geno’ to make plays and as you saw, when Comeau gets open in the slot, he’s got a great shot.”
Johnston said the other day that he might have some hesitation playing Comeau in both games of this back-to-back set that concludes Thursday in Ottawa after being off for so long. But after his performance against the Red Wings, it seems that Comeau is on track for even more ice time.
“I told him before the game I’d look at his minutes to see how much he played and how he played and see if he can play in a back-to-back,” said Johnston. “By the looks of it, it looks like he could.”
The Comeau comeback epitomized the Penguins’ return to health up top, and ultimately, a return to success.
“I think we’ve got to use (this win) as some momentum,” Comeau said. “We’ve got to realize what we’re doing well. I thought we had success getting guys to the net. We created a lot when we got pucks behind them. Got a good forecheck in and that’s (important) against any team.”