Gill says Predators are “right in the middle of the fun” with tough week ahead
This week the Nashville Predators will host the Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, three teams ahead of Nashville in the Western Conference standings. A tough week of opponents puts it mildly, but that doesn’t phase newest Predator Hal Gill.
“I think that is the way it should be,” Gill answered when asked about his first full week as a Nashville Predator. “You want to get into playoff-style hockey. That’s where the fun is. We are right in the middle of the fun, I guess.”
The 6’7 defenseman has played for the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens before coming to Nashville. This is his first time playing in the Western Conference.
“I’m anxious to learn. It is a different game a little bit but hockey is hockey so it can’t be that much different. I’m learning the different intricacies of the game,” he said about the move to the West.
Gill made his Nashville debut Sunday night in the Predators 3-2 win over Dallas. Gill played over 16 minutes and was a team-high +2 on the night and so far head coach Barry Trotz has been impressed.
“He is a veteran player. He was here about 8 o’clock this morning for an 11:30 practice. He was just getting prepared. On the ice and in the room he brings a lot of the things that you want. He is engaging with the players. He has great respect in the room from the other guys. He is a low maintenance guy. I’m really happy. He is fitting in real easy,” Trotz said.
That veteran experience is something that Gill hopes will benefit his new team. “Hopefully I bring consistency, strength in front of the net, good penalty killing and a long stick. I will try to be as solid as I can be. I hope I will help out in the locker room and hopefully I can help out with the young guys too. I think they went out and got me for that reason. That is kind of what I do and what they want me to do anyway.”
After the team’s practice on Monday, Trotz was very clear in his hopes that Gill’s experience will help out not only the younger players but also the seasoned professionals like Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. “It helps Weber and Suter knowing that there is a veteran guy who can go in in that situation. We were talking about the penalty kill with him and he knows how to kill penalties. He knows a lot about certain individuals in the League and the different power plays.”
“Not only has he got a lot of experience but he has been a student of the game for 15 years. He is very disciplined about his overall preparation. That’s why he has been in the League for so long. That has to rub off not only on the Ryans and the Sheas and guys who are good pros now but also the younger guys to see at his age that he is doing the stuff that he does to prepare for games,” Trotz said.
Predators rookie Roman Josi was paired with Gill on Sunday night. He said Gill’s ability to communicate really helped his game. “He was great. You can see how much experience he has. He is so calm out there and he talks a lot so he made it easy for me.”
When asked if switching partners from Klein to Gill was difficult, Josi said it was not. “I don’t think it is that hard. We all play hockey and like I said he has great experience and he has played with a lot of different guys. He made it easy for me.”
One of the 36-year old’s initial impressions of the Predators was its youth. “It is a young team. There are guys who will make mistakes but everyone is working hard. You can see that. Guys are doing what it takes to make plays. We have a good goalie and some good defense and some good forwards. It is a good mix,” Gill said, adding “It is a good structure, good system. It is a defensive game. It makes it easy when guys work hard for each other. You find ways that way and it was nice to be a part of it.”
Gill says he looks forward to playing in Smashville as a Predator for the first time Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks. “Montreal is a different animal altogether. Hockey is their way of life up there, but there are passionate fans down here in their own right. I’m excited to get to be a part of that and excited to get out there tomorrow night.”