When Maxim Lapierre spoke to reporters a few hours before his first game as a Penguin on Wednesday in Washington, he hadn’t even gotten a chance to meet with the coaching staff yet.
Everything had happened so fast after learning he had been traded to Pittsburgh from St. Louis for Marcel Goc the night before.
“Having dinner, I got the phone call,” Lapierre said. “From then, it just went so fast. Just pack everything, take a flight, come here, meet the guys and in a few hours, go on the ice and play for a new team.
“I consider myself lucky to be part of such a great team right now. I’ve been looking at the Pittsburgh team for so many years, since I played in Montreal and everything. I think I know how good they are and realize I’m lucky to be here.”
The only Penguin Lapierre already knew coming in was defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, as the two of them were teammates in Vancouver. Lapierre wasn’t particularly familiar with any of the other guys, but had battled against a lot of them on the ice – especially captain Sidney Crosby.
“I’ll buy him dinner,” Lapierre grinned. “I think everything will be fine that way … It’s always a weird situation to play in front of guys you don’t really know. But I think they know me. I’ve been around a long time now and they know what I’m going to bring.”
They most certainly do, as Lapierre is the kind of player who makes his presence felt to his opponents. While he’s is a versatile forward with size, speed and the ability to chip in about 9-10 goals a year, perhaps most importantly, he’s an agitator who can get opponents off their game and is difficult to play against – especially in the playoffs.
That was a key factor in the trade for general manager Jim Rutherford, who was impressed with what the 29-year-old was able to do in two deep playoff runs with the Montreal Canadiens (who beat the Penguins in 2010) and the Canucks’ Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2011. Overall, Lapierre has 75 games of postseason experience.
“He’s a big guy. He plays with energy. He plays with an edge at times,” Rutherford said. “It seems that we’re getting into more physical games than I would have expected. He will help that group of guys that we already have, (Steve) Downie, (Zach) Sill, (Robert) Bortuzzo, those guys.”
But while nastiness is important to his game, Lapierre – who centered Downie and Nick Spaling in Pittsburgh's 4-0 loss to the Capitals – doesn’t want to go over that edge.
“It doesn’t mean being dirty,” Lapierre said. “It just means being physical and sound defensively. I think the word is energy. You just want to take some momentum for your team and show that every presence, you’re giving your 110 percent. It’s that simple.”
Energy was the key word for head coach Mike Johnston as well.
“He’s a hard-forechecking type of player, plays center or the wing,” Johnston said. “Kills penalties as well. So he’s a versatile guy. The key thing was he’s a real energy guy, brings a lot of energy, a lot of work. That’s the type of player that we’re looking for.”