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Flyers' Gill expected to replace injured Grossmann

by Adam Kimelman

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Quick brain or quick feet.

That's the decision facing Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube as he picks a defenseman to join the lineup for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Rangers on Sunday (noon ET; NBC, TSN, RDS).

With Nicklas Grossmann out with a lower-body injury sustained in the second period of Game 4 on Friday, Berube must choose between speedy 25-year-old Erik Gustafsson or 39-year-old veteran Hal Gill.

"We've got a guy that's a quick guy, he closes quick," Berube said. "He's been a good player for us. And you got the old, crafty veteran back there that has played a lot of games and has got good leadership. He doesn't have the feet the other guy has [but] he's smart. So it's not an easy decision.

"I'm going to sleep on it [Saturday] and wake up in the morning and make a decision."

Though Berube wasn't saying who he planned to pick, he gave a clue by putting Gill in Grossmann's spot alongside Mark Streit during practice Saturday. Gill played the final two games of the regular season alongside Streit when Grossmann was out with an ankle injury. Gill was a plus-2 with one shot on goal while averaging 18 minutes of ice time in those two games.

"I think it helped a lot," Gill said of his late-season play. "You want to feel comfortable on the ice. I've been working hard in practice, keeping my feet going and trying to stay in shape that way. Getting on the ice affirmed what I've been doing, so that's been nice."

He also got accustomed to playing alongside Streit, who has one goal and one assist in four Stanley Cup Playoff games.

"You play with a guy like that, you don't need real chemistry," Gill said. "You need to get him the puck and let him do his thing and be an option for him. I want to get him the puck and let him go. I want to back him up if he feels he can join the rush. It's not always going to be that way, but if he feels it he can go, he has that green light and I know I'm the one backing him up."

Also working in Gill's favor is his 110 games of playoff experience, including 24 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins en route to winning the 2009 Stanley Cup. That total is 19th among active players and more than any player on the Flyers active roster. Gustafsson's only postseason experience was seven games in 2011.

"I think the more you play in the playoffs, you realize that it's a journey," Gill said. "It has ups and downs. During the games there can be momentum swings, things that can change a series. You can't sit there and think about things. You play for the moment because that one battle in the corner in your end which leads to a breakout which leads to a goal changes the game, changes a series, changes everything. I don't want to sound like an NHL slogan, but one play can change everything. That's what it's all about."

Before playing the final two regular-season games, Gill hadn't played since Dec. 21.

"He didn't play a whole lot this year but he's always positive, always in a great mood," Streit said. "He has a lot of experience, he won a Cup in Pittsburgh. I was amazed. He didn't play for three or four months and then we played together for two games and I was really impressed with how well he played."

Gill said he is happy to have the chance to play in the postseason.

"Skydivers jump out of planes because they get a rush," Gill said. "I play hockey to play in the playoffs. That's the high everyone is looking for."

Here are the projected lineups for Game 5 on Sunday:


Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Brayden Schenn - Vincent Lecavalier - Wayne Simmonds

Jason Akeson - Sean Couturier - Matt Read

Zac Rinaldo - Michael Raffl - Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn

Mark Streit - Hal Gill

Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Jay Rosehill, Tye McGinn, Erik Gustafsson

Injured: Steve Downie (upper body), Nicklas Grossmann (lower body)


Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Daniel Carcillo

Dominic Moore - Brian Boyle - Derek Dorsett

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Jesper Fast, Raphael Diaz, J.T. Miller, Justin Falk, Ryan Haggerty

Injured: Chris Kreider (hand).


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