WILKES-BARRE – If pucks were edible, Maxime Talbot would weigh close to a metric ton.
That’s because Talbot, a 21-year-old center, is one of – if not the – hungriest players in Pittsburgh Penguins training camp. Talbot is starving to make the NHL club and there’s a pretty good chance he will not stay in Wilkes-Barre when the Penguins return to Pittsburgh on Monday.
“I’ll do anything I can to stay in Pittsburgh,” he said. “I just have to keep working and bring my game much higher.”
Talbot’s game is pretty high right now. He doesn’t have to score 50 goals or rack up 100 points. However, Talbot’s duties are to kill penalties and center the team’s fourth line. That may seem like an unattractive role to some, but not to Talbot.
“That’s the bread and butter for me,” he said. “I just work as hard as I can to make the team. That’s my role and I love it.”
Competition for the small number of open spots on the Penguins’ roster has been intense since the start of training camp. However, that has only forced Talbot to raise his game.
“Definitely. You have to compete against every guy and now you have a chance to compete against great guys,” Talbot said. “So I am real excited about it.”
Talbot, who has not yet played in an NHL regular-season game, was glad to see the franchise draft Sidney Crosby and bring in big-name free agents like Sergei Gonchar, Ziggy Palffy and John LeClair over the summer.’
“It’s awesome for the organization, for the fans, city and all the players,” Talbot said.
Those additions, though, only made it harder for rookies like Talbot, who scored seven goals and added 12 assists in 75 games last year in Wilkes-Barre, to find a spot on the team.
“It’s awesome to be here to practice with them,” Talbot said. “It’s even harder to make the team and that’s what makes it fun.”
It’s his infectious energy and enthusiasm that sets Talbot apart from everyone else on the ice.
“I am just working hard each shift. I am doing everything I can to make the team win. I love my role,” he said. “There are so many good players now that I am going to do everything I can – if I need to put my face in front of a shot, I will do that.”
Talbot, an eighth-round pick in 2002, gets another crack at proving himself Sunday at 5 p.m. when the Penguins travel to Hershey to meet the Washington Capitals.
“For sure, I think I am proving that I can play in the NHL. I can get better, though,” he said. “I know what I have to do. I just have to work hard and do what I can do best. No pressure, just go out on the ice, work hard and have fun.”