The question of whether or not Hal Gill would play in the Nashville Predators’ 2012 playoff opener remained unanswered following the team’s morning skate Wednesday.
Gill did not take the ice, but the session was optional. Many other top players, including the top defensive pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, also did not participate.
Gill’s status has been in question since he was hit by a shot in last Thursday’s victory over Dallas. He sat out Saturday’s regular season finale at Colorado and has not practiced with the team since.
“He’ll be a game-time decision — that’s my update,” coach Barry Trotz said Wednesday morning. “There will be seven [defensemen] for warm-up.”
Gill played 23 games for Nashville after he was acquired Feb. 17 in a trade with Montreal. He had no goals, five assists and a plus-4 rating. He averaged 3:28 of ice time on the penalty kill, which easily was the most for any Nashville defensemen over that stretch.
“We’ve got a lot of depth in here, like we’ve talked about,” Weber said. “We’ve got guys who have played well and can step up for us.
“It’s no big deal if [Gill] can’t play.”
Actually, ‘big’ is a word most often associated with Gill, who is 6-foot-7, 241 pounds. He also is the only Nashville player who has been a part of a Stanley Cup champion team (Pittsburgh 2009).
If he can’t play, either Jack Hillen (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) or Ryan Ellis (5-foot-10, 179 pounds) will take his place. Neither Hillen nor Ellis has appeared in a single NHL playoff game in their careers.
“I’ve talked to a couple guys … just asking what it was like,” Hillen said. “They said it’s the most fun you’ll ever have playing, you’ll never want it to end. There’s so much adrenaline that it’s so much fun. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.
“… Hal’s a big part of our team, and I’m hoping he’s healthy and ready to go. If he’s not, I’m ready to step in there. I’ll be excited and jumping and ready to go.”
• Knocking the odds: To say Trotz was hesitant to accept the role of favorite against the Red Wings would be incorrect. He was loath to do so.
Many experts consider the Predators the team to beat in this series. After all, they finished two points ahead of Detroit in the final Western Conference standings, which was enough to get them home-ice advantage for the series.
“When you look at the records, we’ve both got 48 wins,” Trotz said. “So tell me who’s the favorite. They’ve got 11 Stanley Cups on the other side, they have maybe the greatest defenseman to ever play in the game in Nick Lidstrom, and Pavel Datsyuk is a great player, one of the best two-way players … in any decade.
“… If getting two more points than them over 82 games makes you the favorite, then that’s pretty slim.”
• Happy travelers: Detroit coach Mike Babcock acknowledged that it is unusual for his team to start the playoffs on the road. He was adamant, though, that it is not uncomfortable.
He said he and general manager Ken Holland often have discussed a shared preference to open away from home.
“Just get out and get after them — you don’t have to worry about anything,” Babcock said. “You just play nice and simple, put as much pressure on the opposition as you can and watch them tighten up.”
• Viewer's guide: Channel listings for tonight’s local broadcast on SportSouth: Comcast — Chs. 26 (standard) and 1676 (HD); Dish Network — Chs. 449 (standard) and 9519 (HD); DirecTV — Chs. 652 (standard) and 652-1 (HD); AT&T U-verse — Chs. 695 (standard) and 1695 (HD).
• Notable numbers: 5 — points (one goal, four assists) by Jordin Tootoo in the regular-season against the Red Wings, which tied David Legwand for the most among the Predators. Tootoo is not expected to play in Game 1.
6 — Predators who were on the team the last time it faced Detroit in the playoffs (2008).
8.4 — Nashville’s average penalty minutes per game during the regular season, which was the lowest in the NHL.
8.5 — Detroit’s average penalty minutes per game during the regular season, which was the second lowest in the NHL.
54 — times the Red Wings outshot their opponents during the regular season. That’s the same number of times the Predators were outshot by the opposition.