It would not be a day if there wasn’t an update to the Penguins’ lengthy injury report. Wednesday brought word that defenseman Jay McKee will be sidelined the next two-to-four weeks with an infected finger. Now that the bad news is out of the way, we can move to the good.
The longest resident on that list, forward Max Talbot, who has missed the first 21 games of the season following offseason shoulder surgery, said after practice he hopes to rejoin the lineup on Thursday night as the Penguins travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators at 7:30 p.m.
“I am definitely hopeful to be back tomorrow,” Talbot said. “If I am back tomorrow it is because I am ready. It is not the type of injury you want to come back early and have to do it again.”
While he didn’t officially say Talbot was playing Thursday night, head coach Dan Bylsma did speak positively about the chances, and talked about what Talbot can bring to the Penguins lineup.
“The game needs to be played with passion and a determination and a grit,” Bylsma said. “Max does a lot of things well but those things are what he brings to a team. He came in the door today and it could have been Game 7 against Washington the way he popped in here.
“I had to remind it wasn’t game day. He was excited and pumped up and ready to go. He brings that on his first day back, but he also brings it on a day-to-day basis. That’s the kind of energy we have on our team and he provides it. It’s like getting a mid-season trade getting him back in our lineup.”
Talbot practiced Wednesday at right wing on a line featuring Craig Adams
at center and Matt Cooke
flanking them on the left side. He said that he is still unable to take faceoffs due to his shoulder.
Adams looks forward to possibly skating next to Talbot.
“He is quick and is a good skater,” Adams said. “He is tenacious. I would call him a puck-hound. He likes to go out there and find the puck wherever it is. He is going to chase it down. We all know he can score some big goals.”
Despite not taking draws, Talbot said don’t worry about his shoulder not being ready to withstand the rigors of a National Hockey League game.
“I got cleared by the doctor for contact so he knows what he is talking about,” Talbot said. “My shoulder feels stable so that is a good thing.
“Obviously it is another thing to go out there in the action when you have a guy such as (Jarkko) Ruutu coming at you full speed and then you have to take a hit. It’s going to be a good test. I think mentally I am ready.”
As far as what he expects from his own game, Talbot said he hopes to give the team the same sort of energy boost his linemate during the postseason, Evgeni Malkin
, has in the two games since his return from a shoulder strain.
“You saw what happened when Geno came back, it just gave a second wind to everybody. Every time a player comes back, I think for everybody else it is like, ‘Okay, we are getting healthy again and we can roll like we did at the start of the season.’
“It’s nice to have young guys who want to prove themselves but when you have all the veterans it’s nice.”
If he does suit up Thursday, Talbot will be bringing more than just his on-ice presence to the lineup.
Throughout the duration of his five-minute scrum with reporters, Talbot was interrupted no less than three times by teammates Pascal Dupuis
and Bill Guerin, who dress immediately to his right.
“I should have two stalls,” said Talbot after Dupuis playfully complained about the host of bodies surrounding Talbot kept him from getting to his changing area.
“Just move into the Lemieux one,” Guerin answered, referring to the open locker the Penguins keep at the end of the row for legendary former player, and team owner, Mario Lemieux.
Talbot tried to again get serious and answer the reporter’s question, but Dupuis stepped in to offer his two cents on what Talbot did to maintain stamina.
“Yoga and Bowflex,” Dupuis said. “P90X quite a bit along with the Bowflex.”
“That is what feels the best, being back in the room with the guys,” Talbot said. “Having the cameras is awesome, like Billy Guerin just said. I missed the guys so it is nice to be back in here fooling around with them.”
Once the playful bantering was complete, Talbot was able to give a truthful reply to the original question.
“I have been around on the bike and have been doing stamina exercises,” he said.
Those stamina exercises should allow Talbot to pick right where he left off, especially considering he scored twice the last time he laced up the skates in Game 7 versus Detroit. Dating back to his two-goal performance at Mellon Arena in Game 3 against the Wings, Talbot has four goals over a five-game stretch. That fact was not lost upon him.
“I am hot,” Talbot said. “It goes back a long way that I am hot. Two goals the last game is good. I want to keep that rolling.”
Dupuis has zero doubts his good friend will do just that.
“He is a gamer,” Dupuis said. “He is going to bring it when the game is on the line. It is great to see him back.”