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Talbot and Gonchar in Lineup Against Senators

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Reinforcements are on the way for an injury depleted Penguins lineup as it was confirmed after Thursday’s morning skate by head coach Dan Bylsma that forward Max Talbot will officially make his 2009-10 season debut following offseason shoulder surgery, and he will be joined by defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who has missed the past 12 games with a broken left wrist.

“They were on schedule, they were out there today and it looks like they’ll be joining us tonight, Max and Gonch on the back end,” Bylsma said. “It’s good to get Gonch back and get the mid-season acquisition of Max into our lineup. Both guys add different things.

“Max will add a lot of energy tonight. He’s really pumped up to get back in there. We are glad to have him back. Gonch is a puck-moving skilled guy on the power play and five-on-five as well. That’s two good additions.”

After finishing last season with 12 goals and 10 assists in 75 regular-season contests, Talbot was even better in the postseason. He spent a majority of the playoffs playing the wing on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko. Talbot scored eight times and finished with 13 points in 24 postseason games, including both goals in the Penguins decisive, 2-1, Game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final.

Talbot returned to practice in a limited capacity on Oct. 19, exactly one month from what will turn out to be his season debut. He was allowed to shed his red non-contact jersey on Nov. 12.

As he worked his way back into game shape, Talbot refused to speculate when he would be healthy enough to return to game action.

“I never really had a date or a game,” Talbot said. “It was always as soon as I feel good, I’ll be back. I feel like tonight is a good time for me.”

Long regarded as one of the Penguins hardest workers on the ice, Talbot spoke of having to work even harder off the ice to get himself ready for his comeback.

“It was a battle coming back,” he said. “I’m glad to be back. It was a long battle, a long way. I’ll see tonight how it feels. If I can help the team, I’ll try to.”

Talbot is expected to play right wing on a line with Matt Cooke and Craig Adams.

The presence of Gonchar in the lineup will be a welcomed addition to a defensive core totally ravaged by injuries the past few weeks. Half of the six blueliners dressed in Monday night’s 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks were playing for the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton less than two weeks ago.

Gonchar said after Thursday’s morning skate that he is returning to the lineup because his wrist is healthy enough to resume game action, and not because the rash of injuries to the team’s other defensemen made him feel compelled to rush back into the fold.

“That kind of injury, you have to make sure it is healed correctly,” Gonchar said. “I’m not trying to do something because somebody else is injured. We talked to the doctors and did an x-ray.

“I feel good. I’ve been progressing the last week. It’s getting better and better and that’s why I’m going to play tonight.”

Gonchar said that he will not wear any sort of protection to shield the injury from potential re-injury.

“We’re going to massage it before the game,” he said. “With that type of injury you can’t really do much. We can’t put tape inside my wrist on the bone. Otherwise I’ll be fine.”

Adding Gonchar to the fold should be a huge boost to the Penguins power play, which scored only four times without their quarterback. However, Gonchar said expectations have to be kept in check for him against the Senators because he did miss such a large chunk of time.

“It’s hard to predict,” Gonchar said. “I missed a month and it’s going to take me a while to get going. It’s one of those things that there is no recipe to do anything else.

“You go out there and play. That’s the only way. That’s the only way to get back into form. I’m hoping it won’t take that long. I’m hoping it’ll just be a short period of time.”

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