Gill on attack

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Chances are the Boston Bruins still miss Bobby Orr as an offensive defenceman a lot more than they do Hal Gill.

But that doesn't mean they'll ignore what their lumbering ex-teammate can do when he gets within striking distance of the net tonight at the Air Canada Centre. Gill has four points in the Leafs' four-game winning streak, including his milestone 100th NHL assist in his 737th career game Thursday against the New York Rangers.

"My mother heard about that and called to congratulate me," the Concord, Mass., native said yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "But it's not what I'm supposed to do (as his 27 career goals demonstrate)."

His day job remains safe, spreading his 6-foot-7, 250-pound frame to augment goalie Vesa Toskala, who has allowed seven goals in the four wins. Nik Antropov had the hat trick in Manhattan, but many trace the win to Gill's game opening jolt that flattened Jaromir Jagr, rattling the Rangers' star.

"(Gill) put it in Jagr's mind right away that it's going to be a long night," blue line partner Ian White said.

Gill's biggest size asset is on the penalty kill, where he not only helps clear the slot, but breaks up passes through the box with his stork-like reach.

Gill is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame on offence, reaching double figures in points a second straight year in Toronto and well on his way to his career high of 22 as a Bruin in 2001-02. At MSG, he teed up a loose puck for White in one motion for the shot that led to Antropov's third goal.

"He's big, but on that play he showed the hands of a small, skilled guy," White said.

Gill didn't leave Boston in a free-agent huff in 2006, but the Bruins had missed the playoffs and he was having some troubles adjusting to the free-flow 'new' NHL.

"We talked a little bit, but there was a lot of (turmoil) with the team at the time," Gill said. "Then (general manager) Mike O'Connell was let go. It was kind of a mutual decision that my time was up there.

"Toronto expressed interest on the first day of free agency and it was an easy decision for me."

Gill's contributions are keeping with a surge in points by the Leafs' gargantuans; Antropov, Mats Sundin and Wade Belak, with Belak the smallest at 6-5, 221 pounds.

Boston, which sits a point ahead of Toronto, is fueled by smaller scorers, but has lost its past two games and is in injury trouble.

Goalie Tim Thomas is out at least a week with a groin strain, meaning ex-Leaf pick Tuukka Rask likely starts tonight.

Defencemen Aaron Ward and Andrew Ference also are hurt.


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