Talbot back with Malkin/Feds; Gonchar speaks on Clutterbuck

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As a horde of Canadian media hounded C SIDNEY CROSBY at Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, I gathered these notes from the Penguins’ morning practice:

THE BAND IS BACK TOGETHER

OK, so that reference is about 30 years old; still, I’m using it to describe the new “old” second scoring line of LW RUSLAN FEDOTENKO-C EVGENI MALKIN-RW MAX TALBOT. They will start this game against the Flames together, and Talbot seemed genuinely surprised by that development:

“I needed it a lot,” he said. “Do I deserve it with the way I played? I don’t know; but we all know that Geno, Fed and (I) are really comfortable with each other. (Malkin) needs that boost of energy, and I might need something, too. For me it’s awesome for this little break, and I’m going to try to make the best of it.”

Once united for Game 3 of the second-round series against Washington last spring, Fedotenko-Malkin-Talbot produced 23 goals and 48 points, combining for a plus-23 rating.

SARGE THROWS DOWN

D SERGEI GONCHAR was fairly direct — and unusually fierce — about his incident with WILD RW CAL CLUTTERBUCK on Monday at Minnesota.

Gonchar admitted he “took a run” at Clutterbuck, who along with Minnesota HC TODD RICHARDS is upset the league did not suspend Gonchar, whose reputation is not that of a cheap-shot artist.

Clutterbuck had harsh words for Gonchar after Monday’s game:

“I don’t know what he’s thinking,” Gonchar said of Clutterbuck. “He took a run at me, I took a run at him; game-situation, it happens all the time.”

Gonchar said his hit, for which he was assessed a major penalty for interference, was a reaction to “a late hit” from Clutterbuck.

“His arms were up.  He hit me in the head, which I thought the NHL was now looking for. I had a chance to hit him. I thought the puck would get there and I’d hit him when the puck arrived, but the puck kind of stopped halfway there, and he didn’t have the puck.

“At the same time it’s a situation and it’s the game, and I wish we played them again.

“I got hit in the head with his arms up. I don’t think he was going for a clean hit. In my opinion it was a late hit, his hands were up. In my opinion it was a late (hit), a (dirty) hit and that’s why I paid him back.”

The NHL has neither suspended nor fined Gonchar, whose sterling reputation is perhaps his best friend on this matter.

— BY ROB ROSSI (hockeyday@tribweb.com)

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