When the playoffs started, Marcel Goc was something of an afterthought. Having suffered an injury March 27 against the Kings when his left ankle got caught on the end boards and bent in a gruesome manner, Goc's availability to play in a postseason game was, at best, questionable.
Nearly a month later, he returned to the lineup April 26 and has aided the Penguins in a variety of ways. Primarily manning the third line center role, he has allowed head coach Dan Bylsma to team Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on the top line while slotting Brandon Sutter to the second line center role. Since that change, Malkin has seen his point-per-game production in the postseason increase while Crosby finally scored his first goal of the playoffs in Game 3 at New York.
Defensively, Goc has often been one of the first forwards over the boards for the penalty kill. Since his return to the lineup, the Penguins have killed 20 of the 22 opposing power plays they have faced (90.9 percent).
Recently, Goc talked about his return from injury and how he has fit into the lineup.
How have you felt since returning from your injury?
"I've felt good. The training staff did an especially good job with me. I was told I gave the coaches some options with their line changes and they were mixing it up a little bit. I thought it worked pretty good for us."
Have you been limited on the ice in any way since the injury?
"No. I think when you’ve been out for a while and you play in playoffs, you just got to make sure you’re prepared, mentally ready and make sure you get into the game quickly. Get your linemates to help you out, talk a lot and you’re good to go."
As a bottom-six center, are you simply out there to shutdown the other team's top line or is it more nuanced than that?
"It depends when the coach puts you out. When he puts you against the top line, yeah. Obviously he wants you to be tough to play against. Don’t give them much space. Be physical. And like all us, if we get the puck, we want to go north and play in their end as much as I can."
You've worked with a handful of linemates in the playoffs thus far. Is that a challenge?
"Obviously, if you’re playing with somebody for 10 years, you’re used to the guy. But I think I’m fairly new to everybody here so u don’t think it makes a difference if there’s changes or if I stay with a guy for a few shifts or not."
You've primarily worked with Beau Bennett and Lee Stempniak. What's the scouting reporting on Bennett?
"I think he’s a skilled guy. I don’t want to give away too much to the other team. … Good player. [Laughs]."
And Stempniak ... without giving away too much.
I think he’s responsible on the ice and he’s reliable.
You've played quite a bit with Brian Gibbons on the penalty kill.
"I like playing with him. He’s a great player. He’s a really good skater. He’s usually where he’s supposed to be. He makes it easy for everybody to play with him I think."
You last played in the playoffs in 2012 with the Panthers. What's it like being back after two years?
"It’s good. It’s exciting. I was working to get back there as soon as I was ready to play in the playoffs. That’s pretty much what you play the regular season for. You want to be playing this time of the year. Hopefully a lot longer for us."
Is it different playing for a team where the Stanley Cup is said to be the standard?
"Obviously the expectations here are a little different than my last team in Florida but it just challenges you little more to be ready for every practice, game and be sure you come prepared."
What's it like playing on a team with so much depth at center?
"You can learn a lot. I’d say [the opposing defense] concentrate on [Crosby and Malkin] than other guys on the team. That’s how it goes. Whenever you get put on the ice, you’ve got to be ready. It doesn’t matter if you play against one their top lines or one of their checking lines."
(Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)