With the Canadiens’ season on the line for the first time since Round 1, the question on everyone’s mind ahead of Game 6 was whether or not shutdown specialist Hal Gill would be donning his jersey or a custom-made suit at 7:00 p.m. on Monday night.
After taking a spill and being inadvertently stomped on by Chris Kunitz in the third period in Game 5, the 6-foot-7 blue-liner was forced to leave the game early, heading to the hospital for treatment instead of home to Montreal with the rest of his teammates.
“Hal’s status will be determined probably after the warmup to see how he feels, and whether he’s capable of playing or not will be decided at that time,” divulged head coach Jacques Martin, who clearly wasn’t about to give any hints as to his starting lineup. “But it’s encouraging. It shows a lot of character on his part to get back last evening, getting some treatment this morning and then trying it this morning.”
While Gill’s status for Monday’s game is still TBD, his teammates were just happy to see their shot-blocker extraordinaire getting in some quality ice time with the trainer after their pre-game skate.
“I don’t know the severity of the injury but just to see him skate out there is important for him and for our team,” explained Glen Metropolit. “He spent the night in the hospital and flew all day yesterday to get here. Hopefully he’s going for us. He’s a warrior – we know that and you guys all know that. He’s important to our team so we’ll welcome him back, that’s for sure.”
Just minutes after testing out his cut-up leg for the first time since the injury on Saturday night, Gill was just hoping his letters to Santa would be answered about seven months early this year.
“I’ll try to play. I want to play. Who wouldn’t
want to play in Game 6 in Montreal? It’s a big game; Game 6. Nothing better…well Game 7 would be,” hinted Gill. “It’s tough leaving with a couple of minutes left in the game. I would’ve loved to be there until the end. With the way we’re playing right now, it’s even harder to be on the sidelines.”
If Gill does suit up for Game 6, don’t expect any surprised looks from his D partner Josh Gorges
“That’s just how it is with this group. We want to play for one another. We want to go to war and battle for each other,” described Gorges. “No one is satisfied. No one wants to go home yet – we want to keep playing and guys are ready to do whatever it takes to be in the lineup.”
While Michael Cammalleri was hoping to see the king-sized blue-liner back frustrating Sidney Crosby at the Bell Centre, he isn’t planning on throwing in the towel if Gill ends up taking in Game 6 from the press box, either.
“Hal’s been very good for us, I won’t understate that. But I’ve said it before during the playoffs and I think our team’s exemplified it – hockey’s a team sport and it’s never about one guy,” reminded Cammalleri, who is tied for the NHL lead with nine goals so far in the playoffs. “This team has had success playing as a group and we’re not going to change that no matter who’s in the lineup. We would like to have him but if we don’t, we’ll be ok. We seem to like these games and tonight’s another opportunity for us to rise up to the occasion.”
With the revolving door to the Habs’ clinic this season, Martin is no stranger to mixing and matching depending on who he’s had at his disposal throughout the year. Monday night will be no exception.
“We have a lot of character in our hockey club. We faced adversity before through the season and through the first round and we’ll be prepared to compete tonight,” stated Martin. “I don’t know if you need adversity, but what I do know is that we need to elevate our game tonight and that’s what we’ll be prepared to do.” Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.See alsoFive Keys to the Game: Habs-Pens #6 Game preview #6: Canadiens-Penguins Playoff CentralShuffling the deck