Dave Molinari on the Penguins: Center Max Talbot has been known to, um, offer his opinion
Hockey players are a pretty media-friendly bunch, so the way Penguins center Max Talbot interacts with writers and broadcasters really is nothing out of the ordinary.
What makes him stand out is that he's one of them.
Talbot has been writing a column -- OK, having one ghost-written for him -- for the Web site of RDS, a French-language, all-sports TV network in his native Quebec this season. It is on hold for now ("The playoffs are coming, and I'm trying to focus a little more on hockey," Talbot said) but likely will return in the future.
"After Montreal, for the fans [in Quebec], we're the second-most important team," Talbot said. "They're really interested in the Pittsburgh Penguins. We're a popular team, an exciting team to watch."
Talbot said an RDS staffer asks him questions about a subject of Talbot's choosing, then uses his responses to assemble a column. Talbot gets to review the finished product and make any changes he wants before it is posted.
Ferocious as he can be on the ice, Talbot doesn't use his column to create controversy or settle personal vendettas.
"I talked a little bit about [Montreal's Maxim] Lapierre when I fought him and stuff," he said, "but I don't want to get too deep into that."
Get Ryan Malone away from the ice, and he's a pretty laid-back guy, the kind who doesn't agonize about things like unusual starting times.
Good thing, too, because those have been a staple of the Penguins' schedule lately.
A week ago, their game against Philadelphia began shortly after noon.
Seven days from today, they will take on the New York Rangers at 12:38 p.m., the same time their game in Washington March 9 started.
The opening faceoff for the New York game will take place around the time players usually are wrapping up their pregame meal, or just settling in for an afternoon nap. Obviously, that means a radical overhaul of game-day routines.
"It [means] a couple more coffees, and pasta for breakfast," Malone said, smiling. "I don't do that too often."
Jim Paek, a defenseman on the Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992, earned a footnote in hockey history by being the first Korean-born player to reach the NHL.
He might add another distinction in the future, too, by being the first guy from South Korea to coach in the league.
Paek is an assistant coach with Grand Rapids, Detroit's American Hockey League affiliate, and seems to be pretty highly regarded for his performance in that capacity.
Paek's unique background and accomplishments with the Penguins were enough to get his sweater a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame but, at last check, had not gotten him the tuition money that was called for in his final contract with the Penguins.
Few people likely noticed that when the Penguins promoted forwards Ryan Stone and Connor James from their farm team in Wilkes-Barre earlier this month, the transaction was characterized as an emergency recall.
And not because general manager Ray Shero has a flair for the dramatic.
The usual benefit to bringing up players on emergency -- which can be done only if teams have injury problems that prevent them from dressing 12 forwards or six defensemen -- is that they do not have to pass through waivers.
That wasn't an issue this time, however, because neither Stone nor James has reached the point in his pro career where he is eligible for waivers.
But there was a very practical reason for Shero to handle those recalls the way he did: A provision in the league's collective bargaining agreement limits teams to making four conventional recalls from their minor-league team after the trade deadline.
But once that club's season ends, the NHL club could, in theory, bring up the entire roster of its farm team, because the normal 23-man roster limit is waived after the trade deadline.
The problem, though, is that not every American Hockey League team's season ends at the same time, which means some clubs could have an advantage during the playoffs.
The current system rewards NHL teams whose affiliates fail to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs by giving them unrestricted access to their prospects and farmhands from the minors.
First Published March 23, 2008 12:00 am