Hockey is a humbling sport, and Max Talbot was reminded of that last week when he revisited a part of his career that he figured was in his past.
For the first time since April of 2006, the 30-year-old Talbot played three games in three nights. The reason he’d gone so long without doing so is because the CBA doesn’t allow it to happen in the NHL.
Three-in-threes are for AHLers only. For eight days recently — and certainly against his wishes — Talbot was an AHL player.
Having been in the NHL for a long time with success — Talbot’s best-known for scoring the only two goals of the Penguins‘ Cup-clinching Game 7 win over the Red Wings in 2009 — Talbot had every right to be upset with the move, which could be seen coming when he cleared waivers prior to the season. Ever the optimist, Talbot chose positivity over being a grumpy has-been playing in the minors.
“[It was] unusual; I’ve been playing in [the NHL] for 10, 11 years, but at the same time, it was good for me,” Talbot said upon being recalled to the Bruins on Wednesday. “I skated three games in three nights, a lot of ice time, played different positions, different circumstances, power play, PK and it felt good to play, for sure.”
Talbot wasn’t playing in Boston ‘ he dressed for just two games this season prior to being sent down ‘ so the assignment to Providence allowed him to at least keep the rust off. Playing on different lines and seeing some time with rookie sensation Frank Vatrano, Talbot had four points (all assists) in his three games with Providence.
Furthermore, he didn’t seem too sour about being there.
“He’s a good pro,” Alexander Khokhlachev, who was still down in Providence last week, said of Talbot. “He understands everything. He’s a really good player and has a lot of experience, so he knows what to do and how to do it.”
Now the Bruins will need Talbot, as he’s quickly gone from a spare part to a potential solution to the loss of Chris Kelly. With Kelly out for at least the rest of the regular season, Talbot is a top candidate to take on Kelly’s responsibilities as a bottom six wing/center option and reliable penalty killer. On the season, only Patrice Bergeron has spent more time on the penalty kill among Bruins forwards than Kelly.
‘You lose Kelly, you lose a good penalty killer,’ Claude Julien said Wednesday. ‘We brought in Max Talbot because No. 1 he is a penalty killer. No. 2, he’s a great veteran. He’s a great leader. He comes and he plays hard every night.
“Somewhere along the way, you find ways to compensate for Kelly’s loss, and Max is our answer right now to come in and help us out in that area.”
Talbot’s Bruins career has been odd to this point since being acquired at last season’s trade deadline, but if the veteran wants to improve his odds of staying in the NHL beyond this season, Kelly’s absence will provide him the opportunity to improve his stock.
“I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do here and work hard,” Talbot said. “If I get into games, I’ll play hard and do what I’ve been doing for 11 years. I’m not trying to play like Kells plays or like anybody else. I’m going to play like Max Talbot can play. That’s all I can do.”