Penguins' Talbot is not splitting hairs; he wants to lead
Maxime Talbot is congratulated after his third-period goal Thursday against the Hurricanes at Mellon Arena.
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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It's apparently some type of gift, the ability to dramatically change your look with a haircut, a shave or forgoing one or the other for a few days.
"It's so different every time," Penguins center Max Talbot said. "People talk about it, but it's not that big a deal."
It was important enough that, after going with a short-cropped hairstyle and clean-shaven look to start the season, Talbot decided to invite back an old friend when the points weren't coming.
He grew a Fu Manchu mustache last week and immediately scored a goal Thursday in a 4-1 victory against Carolina.
That remains his only point through nine games heading into a date tonight against the San Jose Sharks, who led the Western Conference through yesterday.
"I can't help myself," Talbot said of the mustache that arches down past his mouth to his jaw line. "Not that I was struggling, but I was in a little slump. I just couldn't get anything going. Then the first night with a Fu Manchu I scored a goal, so, hopefully, I can keep it on my face all year, all playoffs, all through my career if I need to.
"Whatever works, I'll do it."
That goes for a lot more than his ever-changing look.
Talbot's role is far-reaching.
While the team's top three centers -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal -- are usually crammed in one way or another onto the top two lines, Talbot steadily skates in the middle of the third line.
The fourth-year player is one of the Penguins' top penalty killers.
His faceoffs have improved, up to 57.7 percent this season after being 45 percent or below his first three seasons.
He is counted on to bring a lot of energy to every shift.
And he's indispensable in the locker room.
"He's a real character," said linemate Tyler Kennedy. "He really brings a lot of fun to hockey, and you need guys like that on teams."
Talbot is more than happy to be one of them.
"You want to be a leader in the room, be vocal sometimes," he said. "I think we're a really tight group of guys and it's nice to have fun before practice, after practice, to get loose. We've got a couple guys who can do that. It's a nice atmosphere because it's easy to be yourself."
Still, when the points weren't coming the first few weeks of the season, Talbot pressed.
"You can play as good as you want, but sometimes it's good to contribute [offensively]," he said. "The last two years we proved as a team that the best game we play is when the third and fourth line is going to get a goal."
If he kept every puck from his goals, Talbot wouldn't need a huge storage bin. He has 31 in 195 games.
But, as befit his looks and his personality, he has a knack for the dramatic.
Eight of his 31 regular-season goals have been winners. Two of his three playoff goals were game-turners last spring -- the winner in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final against Philadelphia, and a tying goal with 34 seconds left in regulation at Detroit in Game 5 the Stanley Cup final.
"It's nice being part of moments like that," Talbot said. "In the playoffs last year, it was definitely the biggest moments of my career yet. Hopefully, there will be more to come."
Those who play with him believe there will be.
"He's an energy player, but you have to understand that he can put goals in, too," Kennedy said. "The more confident he gets by scoring goals, the better he's going to be."
Even if he needs an assist from a certain look.
"People liked the Fu Manchu last year," Talbot said. "I definitely liked it. It made me confident.
"Maybe it's mental."
NOTES -- Backup goaltender Dany Sabourin is expected to get his second start of the season, and the first of his career against the Sharks. "He deserves to play, so he's going to be the guy [tonight]," coach Michel Therrien said. ... Talbot and Malkin left yesterday's practice at HP Pavilion early, but Therrien said they are not injured and will play tonight. ... Defenseman Hal Gill skated after the rest of the Penguins and is doubtful for tonight because of an undisclosed injury that has caused him to miss the past two games. ... The Penguins signed defenseman Alex Grant, a fourth-round draft pick in 2007, to a three-year entry contract. He will remain with his junior club.
First Published October 28, 2008 12:00 am