It was last Friday morning, and all the players scheduled to lace up the skates for that night’s matchup against the Reading Royals had long since left the building after the pre-game skate. The locker room was seemingly empty, the red carpet complete with Trenton Titans logo safe from being walked on until a few hours before opening faceoff.
But a faint whirring sound coming from the weight room wasn’t easily ignored.
Anyone peeking their head around the hallway would have seen David Laliberte beginning his workout on an exercise bike, putting the last touches on a lengthy rehab from ACL surgery to his right knee performed in March thanks to an injury suffered while with Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams in Germany.
Now 26, Laliberte was the Philadelphia Flyers’ fourth round draft choice back in 2004, and played in 11 regular season games with them just three years ago, as well as one postseason contest. He came through the ECHL to get to the NHL once before — having suited up for the Wheeling Nailers in 2007-08 — and the St-Jean-Sur-Richelie, Quebec native seems primed to do it one more time, but this time in a different stage in his career with the Titans.
“My goal was to come back and try for another chance to play in the American League, and maybe get a chance to get a two-way (contract) and play in the NHL,” he said.
“That’s my goal, and I’ll give myself another chance and we’ll see what it’s going to bring me.”
His next game at Sun National Bank Center will be his first there since November 25, 2007, when he scored a goal in his only appearance there while with Wheeling. Now “100 percent” healthy, he’s excited to get back on capital city ice for the first time in over five years.
“With the lockout situation, it’s tough for a lot of guys right now,” Laliberte said. “I got cleared three weeks ago, so we went and tried to find a place to play and get back in a game shape situation. I think this is a good situation for me to come here. My agent talked to the Flyers organization a bit and to Vince (Williams), and I’m very excited to play for this team.”
Laliberte will easily slot into a top six forward role in Trenton, similar to where he fit in while he was with the Phantoms, for whom he was a two-time 45+ point producer before ultimately being traded out of the Flyers organization midway through the 2010-11 season.
“I don’t know what the coach wants me to play, but I always play a lot of minutes on the PP and 5-on-5,” Laliberte said.
“If he wants me to play on the PK, I’ll play on the PK. If he wants me on the left wing, I’ll play left wing. Right wing, center, I don’t mind. I just want to play.”
And Laliberte couldn’t help but smile when reminded of his fondest playing moments wearing the orange and black, especially when asked about how close he was to his old stomping grounds.
“I know the area well,” he said.
“I played a couple games with the Flyers, so I know the area. We’re not too far from Philly, so it’s good to be back.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com