O n Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena, defenseman Hal Gill made his return to the Nashville Predators lineup for the first time since February 23.
Gill had spent the last month on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
In the 12 games that he missed, the Predators went 4-7-1.
“It’s tough to miss games,” Gill said. “It’s tough to sit out. You like to think that you can make a difference. Sitting there – especially watching the team struggle – is tough. And when the team wins, you want to be a part of the win. It’s tough either way.”
During his absence, the team took off on two absolutely dismal road trips, finishing 1-7 in away games without him. Gill, frustrated enough with being out of the lineup, was especially frustrated to be out when he felt that he could help his team.
“It’s a double-sided coin,” Gill said. “You want to be part of the wins and all the fun that everyone’s having. When you’re losing, you want to be someone that helps and someone that finds a way to get wins for the teams. Either way it’s tough to be out.”
In the 12 games Gill missed, Nashville’s penalty kill gave up an abysmal 12 power play goals in 12 games. While Nashville did give up a power play goal on Saturday night with Gill in the lineup, he was not on the ice at the time. Gill’s presence was most noted with his play during a 5-on-3 situation that came in the midst of the team killing a 5 minute major for a Rich Clune interference penalty when he laid down to block a Cam Atkinson shot on net.
“When you’re killing penalties, for the most part you’re standing there playing the angles and there are times when you’re aggressive,” Gill said. “I’ve been working hard to stay in shape and to be in shape so I wasn’t too worried about that. It’s just the timing and everything. That’s when you take a second to make sure it’s coming back. I don’t think I was too tentative. I felt good.”
“That’s what we’ve been missing on the penalty kill and even in the locker room,” Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said. “Big Hal is a body that can kill plays with his reach. He gets that ‘long body’ down on the ice, especially on a 5-on-3. That’s just genetics. He’s a big man, he covers a lot of space.”
Trotz was especially pleased to have Gill’s size back in the lineup on Saturday and helping the penalty kill.
“As I said when we got him last year, it’s not a coincidence that every team he’s been with probably in the last 10 years has been a top 5 penalty killing team,” Trotz said. “He’s good at it. He’s got a lot of experience. You can’t defy genetics. He’s a big man, he gets down and he knows how to kill penalties.”
With Gill in the lineup, the Predators cruised to a 5-2 win over Columbus and now sit just 1 point out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
As for Gill, he’s just happy to be back.
“Everyone wants to feel better,” Gill said. “I felt good. I felt strong and I just like to be part of a win.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua