Penguins Notebook: Talbot's goals are golden but, lately, rare
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The Penguins are 4-0 this season when Max Talbot scores a goal, so perhaps they wouldn't be sputtering through a 7-9-1 stretch if he did it a bit more often.
But unfortunately for them -- and him -- Talbot enters the game against Boston at 7:38 p.m. today at Mellon Arena with no goals in his past 19 games, a slump dating to a 7-6 overtime victory Nov. 11 in Detroit.
Matchup: Boston Bruins at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Tim Thomas for Bruins.
Penguins: Are 3-8-3 in past 14 home games against Boston. ... C Sidney Crosby has been held pointless in five of past nine games. ... Power play was 0 for 5 in each of past two games.
Bruins: Lost to Penguins, 2-1, in shootout Oct. 20 at TDBanknorth Garden. ... C David Krejci has an eight-game points streak. ... Are 22-2-1 in past 25 games, outscoring opponents, 103-50, during that span.
Hidden stat: Boston has league-high 11 players with plus-minus ratings of plus-10 or higher.
Talbot said there is no precedent for him to go through such a dry spell but was quick to add that he doesn't measure his contribution solely by statistics.
"I don't care if I don't get any goals for a long period of time," he said. "When I play well, I'm satisfied. When I make things happen and change momentum. It's not so much about goals. I don't care about stats.
"Max Talbot doesn't play to get goals. I play to help the team."
Talbot, who has been troubled by lingering injuries for much of the season, said, "The last two games, I've been playing better." And coach Michel Therrien praised his work during a 3-2 loss Saturday to Montreal.
He also said that game should be a template for Talbot.
"He played with a lot of grit, a lot of jam," Therrien said. "That's the way he has to play.
"I'm expecting more from guys like Talbot in the second half. And I'm sure he's expecting more from him, too."
Penguins defenseman Hal Gill will be in the lineup tonight for the first time since being injured Dec. 6 in Ottawa.
"I need to get back to playing, get out there," he said.
Gill hurt his right shoulder when it struck the boards as he was finishing a check in the third period of a 3-2 loss to the Senators. Despite the nature of his injury, Gill said he will have no reservations about initiating contact.
"You want to get into the game," he said. "That's the biggest thing. The first thing you want to do when you come to camp is to get that first hit out of the way, so you can play. It's kind of the same thing."
Michael Ryder scored 25 goals during his rookie season in Montreal, and 30 in each of the two that followed.
But after he put up only 14 in 2007-08, the Canadiens allowed Ryder to leave as a free agent, and he signed a three-year deal worth $4 million per season with Boston. Which is looking like a pretty shrewd investment by the Bruins.
Ryder already has 14 goals -- seven of them game-winners -- and has scored in 10 of his past 13 games.
"I think what we're seeing now is the real Michael Ryder," Bruins coach Claude Julien told Boston reporters. "He scored 30 goals every year except for last year. We've said that from day one.
"Everybody's talking about the one year, but they're not talking about the other eight he's had since junior."
The Penguins' 3-2 loss Saturday to Montreal, coming 24 hours after their 1-0 victory in New Jersey, might have been the final major test for defenseman Ryan Whitney's surgically repaired foot.
And he seems to have passed it with no significant difficulty.
"It was pretty sore [Sunday], but during the game, it was fine," Whitney said. "The next day is no big deal, because you never play three in a row [in the NHL]."
Now that the playing-on-consecutive-days hurdle has been cleared, Whitney seems confident that there are no other milestones on the road to full recovery.
"Just the grind of every-other-day playing," he said. "But I think it will get stronger as it goes on."
Boston's eight-game winning streak is its longest since an 8-0 run March 30-April 14, 1993. ... Only four of the Bruins' 13 games this month were on home ice. ... Several thousand youth hockey players and their family members attended practice yesterday at Mellon Arena.
First Published December 30, 2008 12:00 am