Gill proving his worth

'I miss the guys (in Toronto) but this is pretty exciting,' Gill says on the eve his first...

'I miss the guys (in Toronto) but this is pretty exciting,' Gill says on the eve his first appearance in a Stanley Cup final. (SUN MEDIA)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 5:27 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Hal Gill needs to send Cliff Fletcher a nice "Thank You Card."

Had Fletcher not shipped the towering defenceman at the Feb. 26 trade deadline from the Maple Leafs to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2008 second-round draft pick and a fifth rounder in '09, Gill would be hitting golf balls right now, not opposing forwards.

"I miss the guys (in Toronto) but this is pretty exciting," Gill said of the anticipation he is feeling about his first appearance in a Stanley Cup final.

He has reason to be stoked. One moment you are playing for a Leafs team headed for nowhere; the next, you are on a star-studded Penguins squad that is on the road to the Stanley Cup final.

Gill admits his days in Toronto seem like a million years ago.

"I kind of fit in here in Pittsburgh right away," he said. "It's not easy to click all the time. Your world is tossed upside down but in this case the pieces all fell into place."

While GM Ray Shero's acquisition of Marian Hossa from the Atlanta Thrashers made much more of a splash than the trade for Gill, the 6-foot-6 defenceman has played a key role in the Penguins march to the final. Perhaps his best moments came during Pittsburgh's five-game disposal of the New York Rangers in the second round, a series in which he was assigned to smother Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr.

He also gained a lot of fans in the stands and in the Penguins dressing room when he smeared the Rangers' Sean Avery at the end of Game 2, just moments after Avery had hacked Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the back of the leg.

"It's really good to have a big body like Hal's in the playoffs when things get more physical," Shero said.

"He has been a perfect fit for us. With Ryan Whitney, Sergei Gonchar and Kristopher Letang, we already had offensive guys on the blue line. We were looking for a defensive guy at the deadline. And he was one of the guys on our list.

"He has been everything we could have asked for."

For his part, Fletcher, the Leafs' interim GM, is not surprised by the success Gill has enjoyed since the trade.

"He has the reputation of being a good penalty killer," Fletcher said last night. "And he is surrounded by some very good talent there."

Gill still talks to a handful of his former Toronto teammates now and then, including young forward Matt Stajan.

"He's a Steelers fan so he wants to know what's going on with them," Gill said.

Steelers? Ya, for much of the year, they admittedly do own this town.

But not for the next two weeks. Right now this is Penguins Country, and Hal Gill would not want to be anywhere else.


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