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Talbot surprise standout for Penguins

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007

Most hockey players credit a hot streak to a good tape job on their sticks or a perfect sharpening of their skate blades.

Maxime Talbot thinks it's the 'stache.

"It's the 'moo-stache' not the moustache," Talbot said. "The Fu Manchu helps me a lot in achieving my goals. You don't want to cut what works for you, and it's definitely working so I don't want to cut it."

It would be hard to argue with the results. Through four games, Talbot is leading the Penguins with three goals, is tied with 20 players for the NHL lead in short-handed goals and his three points are more than Jordan Staal and Ryan Whitney combined.

"He's very competitive and he's a high-energy player for us," Penguins right wing Mark Recchi said. "He's scored goals in juniors, so you know he can do it. He's done a great job of working his way into this league and developing into a great two-way player and somebody that we really can count on."

After the Penguins selected Talbot in the eighth round of the 2002 draft, he had his best season in junior hockey. While playing for Hull of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he scored 46 goals and 104 points in the regular season and led the league in scoring during the playoffs while winning the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the postseason most valuable player.

Since then, however, Talbot has not come close to duplicating those gaudy numbers. He scored 25 goals in 51 games while playing for Gatineau of the QMJHL in his final junior season. Coming into this season, he had 18 goals in 123 NHL games.

It's also what makes his scoring three goals in the team's first four games all the more surprising.

"You never know. Anything can happen and I hope he stays hot," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "It's great for him and it gives us some depth, too."

Throughout last season and early this year, all of the focus has been on the top two lines of the Penguins attack -- and with good reason. Crosby is coming off a Hart Trophy-winning season in which he won his first scoring title. Evgeni Malkin is making people question whether it should have been him and not Alexander Ovechkin taken first overall in 2004. Mark Recchi has 509 goals and needs four to pass Gilbert Perrault for 32nd on the all-time goals scored list. Add in Staal and a sniper of Petr Sykora's ability, and it's easy for a player such as Talbot to fall through the cracks.

Or occasionally emerge to surprise people.

"He's been playing real well, his playing style is in-your-face and working hard like he always does and he's going to get those goals like he did the last game (against Toronto) coming out of the corner and going to the net," linemate Colby Armstrong said. "It's little things like that that makes him real valuable to the team."

Though it is early to project numbers for Talbot -- he is on target to score 62 goals this season -- he did increase his production from five to 13 goals from his first to second seasons. Though its a good bet he won't continue his frenetic pace, there are some who want him to make a run at it.

"I hope so because that means I might get a few assists since I'm playing with him," Armstrong said. "Me and (linemate Gary Roberts) can hopefully pick up a few scraps, you never know. But you know what you're going to get out of Max every game and, when he's playing his game, things like this are going to happen."

And, as long as the puck keeps going into the net, Talbot and his razor are sworn enemies.

"If I stop and not have a goal for 10 games, I'll definitely cut my moo-stache," Talbot said. "But I'm going to keep it as long as I can."

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