Hal Gill a Long Shot for Flyers Roster, Just Happy to Be Here

Hal Gill a Long Shot for Flyers Roster, Just Happy to Be Here

Over the weekend we learned the Flyers invited 38-year-old defenseman and 15-year NHL veteran Hal Gill to training camp, which opens this Thursday already believe it or not. Given the problems the Orange & Black had in their own end last season, it’s good to see they are still looking into options even as the start of the season rushes forth.

Of course, Gill is only with Philadelphia on a tryout basis for now, and it seems likely that’s all it will be. A huge part of the problem the Flyers had last season were injuries, but as Tim Panaccio points out, the club’s blueliners (minus Chris Pronger) are all healthy heading into this year’s camp. With nine defensemen already competing for ice time, Gill has his work cut out for him.

No matter, says Gill. He tells Panotch he’s just happy for any opportunity to continue playing, and it sounds as though he’s prepared to find another sweater to wear once his time in Philly runs out. Per our CSN insider on Sunday:

“I think I can go in and do the best I can,” Gill told CSNPhilly.com. “I know throughout the year there is going to be changes. I am certainly not looking at it as a guaranteed spot.”

“My agents talked to [Flyers GM Paul] Holmgren and I’ve been looking for a contract and also trying to get into a camp and be competitive and get into some games,” Gill said.

“I’ve been talking to Holmgren. I can go in there and at least be a presence in camp. Be a veteran in camp and help out that way and get in some games. It works out that way.”

Gill played 32 games for the Nashville Predators in a condensed 2013 season, logging a minus-3 over a little more than 13 minutes of ice time per night. He’s clearly lost a step at this stage of his career, and was never much of an offensive threat. However, Gill may still be able to help a club in a limited role as a third-line defenseman, or even on the penalty kill.

That club probably won’t be the Flyers though. One of Homer’s big moves this offseason was to bring in Mark Streit from the New York Islanders, while the Flyers also have a bevy of young players in their system who could push for ice time this season or in the near future. But again, it’s good to see the team is willing to exhaust all possibilities.

>> Gill on tryout with Flyers: 'A chance to play' [CSN]

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

Penn State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Purdue (3-4, 1-3)
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Saturday, noon, ABC/ESPN2

Scouting Penn State
The Lions upended the Buckeyes, 24-21, when safety Marcus Allen blocked a field goal and cornerback Grant Haley returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game. The Lions, who rallied from a 21-7 deficit after three quarters, earned their third straight victory.

Allen and Haley were named Big Ten co-Special Teams Players of the Week, and linebacker Brandon Bell, who had a career-high 19 tackles in the game, earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for 681 yards, fifth most in the Big Ten, and is tied for the conference lead in touchdowns with nine.

Scouting Purdue
Purdue fell to Nebraska last week in the debut of Boilermakers interim coach Gerad Parker, who replaced the fired Darrell Hazell on Oct. 16. Quarterback David Blough leads the Big Ten in passing yardage (2,065) and total offense (300.7 yards per game), and has thrown 14 touchdown passes (albeit with 11 interceptions).

The Boilermakers are, however, last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (120.3), total defense (441.0), turnover margin (minus-8) and red-zone offense (15 for 23, 11 touchdowns) and next to last in rushing defense (249.0) and passing efficiency.

The Lions lead 13-3-1 and have won the last seven meetings, the most recent a 45-21 victory in 2013.

Storyline to watch
This is the ultimate trap game for PSU, and the Lions’ approach to it will say a lot about their leadership and maturity. They have also dropped their last four road games dating back to last season, including both this fall. Their last victory away from home came last Oct. 24, against Maryland in Baltimore.

What’s at stake
The Lions can become bowl-eligible with a victory.

Penn State 35, Purdue 21

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.