NASHVILLE – When the Nashville Predators acquired defenseman Hal Gill last February it was mostly to help with their penalty killing as they anticipated a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Having re-signed Gill in the offseason, the Predators expected him to perform the same service. However, he has been injured for much of the season and, as a result, the Predators’ penalty-killing unit has suffered, ranking 28th in the League at 77.2 percent.
Nashville hopes that changes Saturday when they play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena and, Gill, who has played in half of his team’s 30 games, should return to the lineup. He has missed 12 straight games with a lower-body injury and has played in three since Feb. 10.
"The penalty kill needs more attention than the power play (which ranks 17th but has yielded three shorthanded goals in the past three games) right now based on we haven’t been able to keep pucks out of our net there, so big Hal Gill has been a big factor since he’s been out," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Our percentage is pretty low for where we were."
Gill participated in his first full practice on Friday in several weeks. The Predators went on a five-game road trip earlier in the month and Gill did not travel. That left him at home to work only with fellow injured teammate Patric Hornqvist.
"It’s nice to have the team back so I can skate with them," said Gill, who then showed his trademark sense of humor and sarcasm. "Ready to skate and get out there and compete a little bit and kind of get involved with drills a little bit, not that skating with Patric Hornqvist isn’t awesome. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, but it’s getting old just the two of us. It’s nice to get out there with the team and to be able to kind of get in there a little bit."
Trotz said Friday it was possible Hornqvist would play Saturday, but Saturday the coach said Hornqvist (upper-body injury) will remain out.
Here are the projected lineups for the Predators and Blue Jackets:
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Taylor Beck - David Legwand - Gabriel Bourque
Rich Clune - Nick Spaling - Brandon Yip
Matt Halischuk - Chris Mueller - Bobby Butler
Shea Weber - Roman Josi
Hal Gill - Kevin Klein
Victor Bartley - Jon Blum
Out: Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Ellis, Scott Hannan, Craig Smith
Vinny Prospal - Derick Brassard - Mark Letestu
R.J. Umberger - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno
Matt Calvert - Artem Anisimov - Cam Atkinson
Colton Gillies - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson
Nikita Nikitin - Dalton Prout
Tim Erixon - John Moore
Out: Adrian Aucoin, Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Collins