Penguins forward Max Talbot was back on the ice for the first time in three weeks for Wednesday’s evening practice at Southpointe. Talbot, who has missed 10 of the Penguins’ last 11 games, has been battling through a groin injury. Though he didn’t practice with his teammates, just his presence on the ice was a promising sign.
While most players used the NHL’s mandatory shutdown period – in which no players were permitted to skate or workout at team facilities for the last nine days – to relax and get away from hockey, Talbot used it as an opportunity to rest his ailing groin.
“I feel good,” said Talbot, who hasn’t participated in a full practice since Feb. 3. “(Wednesday) was the first time in a while. I couldn’t skate because of the NHL rules before. I felt good so that’s progress. It’s still day to day but I’m really happy with the skating.”
“Talbot, just due to the rules about the break, he was not able to get on the ice until (Wednesday),” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “To put him right out into practice was not something that we thought was a good idea, but we hope to see him progress everyday in terms of his involvement, and we anticipate that being the case.”
Talbot is cautiously optimistic about returning to the lineup when play resumes following the Olympic break on Tuesday, March 2 against Buffalo. And if he doesn’t return against the Sabres, Talbot feels he will play shortly after.
“I’m day to day. I’m looking forward to (returning),” Talbot said. “If it’s not Tuesday, it might be Thursday. It’s definitely in my reach. We’ll see how it goes. (Wednesday) was my first day. I’m happy with it. We’ll see (Thursday) how it goes.”
I’m day to day. I’m looking forward to (returning). ... It’s definitely in my reach. We’ll see how it goes. (Wednesday) was my first day. I’m happy with it. We’ll see (Thursday) how it goes. - Maxime Talbot
Injuries have been an issue for Talbot all season. The Game 7 Stanley Cup hero missed the team’s first 21 games after having offseason shoulder surgery. Talbot did not have the luxury of training camp, and has been working hard to get caught up to the game conditioning of his teammates while strengthening his shoulder.
Talbot’s groin injury may have setback his conditioning progress, but on a positive side it did allow more time for his shoulder to heal.
“The shoulder is feeling way better,” he said. “I’ve been out with a groin injury for the last three weeks, a month, but that gave up extra time for my shoulder to heal. My upper body feels 100 percent now, and that makes a difference. My groin feels good too with not skating for two, three weeks. I’m excited. I’m happy to be here and feeling healthy.”
And both Talbot and Penguins would love for a healthy Talbot to provide a spark for the team entering the final regular-season stretch run and playoff push.
“Mentally it’s been tough this year with the two injuries I’ve had. It’s been frustrating,” Talbot said. “It was a good break. I feel good coming out of it. It’s easy to look back at this year and be disappointed but I know there are still 20 big games left. After that there is a whole new season, which I’m looking forward to.”