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Still Sill


Zach Sill may be in the lineup Saturday for the Washington Capitals, or he may be in the press box. He may even be on his way back to the minors.

But one thing is for certain – wherever he is, he’ll be enjoying it.

The 27-year-old Birch Hill native has been riding cloud nine since being called up to the National Hockey League on Dec. 29. He’s played six games, made waves with a two-game suspension and even scored a goal.

It all started with an odd phone call while with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League.

“I got a call from my coach at about 2 or 3 p.m.,” Sill recalled. “It was kind of a strange situation, because usually your coach never calls you.”

Capitals forward Michael Latta had been injured in a fight the night before and he was out day-to-day. The team needed someone with grit to fill in on the fourth line.

After playing 30 games for the Bears, Sill had become a fan favourite. He was spending time in a leadership role as an alternate captain and even logging minutes as a second-line centre.

But now he was coming into the big leagues as the Capitals prepped for their second battle in a row against the Buffalo Sabres. After a raucous game the night before, many thought Sill was being called up to seek revenge on Sabres defenceman Nic Deslauriers for liberties taken in the first meeting.

But that wasn't the case.

“It was great to get that call, I mean I didn’t know if it was coming this season or not,” Sill said. “I wasn’t going up to be a goon, that’s not really my style. I was just going to play and try to impress and stay in the lineup.”

And he’s done just that so far. Capitals head coach Barry Trotz raved about Sill to the Washington Post earlier this week, complimenting improvements in his skating and versatility.

“His game has got a lot of substance to it,” Trotz told the Post. “He’s hard to play against, he can kill penalties, takes draws, all of those things. He’s got a lot of detail to his game, so he’s been a real pleasant surprise for us.”

Trotz even stuck by Sill after he was suspended two games for hitting Boston Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid from behind. Sill worried it would be the end of his stay, but an injury to Caps forward Jay Beagle earned Sill another shot. While centering the third line for a shift, he scored his first goal as a Capital against the Ottawa Senators.

Looking back on the punishment from the league office, he can breathe easier now knowing it all worked out. It may have even helped him, he jokes.

“I took a little heat for that suspension but it definitely got my name out there. Whether it was in a good way or not, I don’t know,” he laughed. “What is it they say? Any publicity is good publicity? Yeah, I guess we’ll see about that.”

Going from the minors to the best team in the NHL wasn’t a huge adjustment, he said. The teams play the same systems, so the hockey is still similar. His fiancée went with him and his routine hasn’t changed much. And if the ride ends tomorrow, he won’t be embittered.

“It’s been a really fun year (in Hershey) with a lot of young players to work with,” he said. “If I get sent back down, there won’t be any bad taste in my mouth. I’ll be hungry to work my way back up, but I won’t be upset.”

Nineteen days ago, Sill was told to pack a bag for a week and come to Washington. While it’s anybody’s guess when or if the Capitals send him down to Hershey, one thing is for sure – he won’t be going back for more clothes.

“I feel like that’s a bad omen, like the day I went back to get more stuff would be the day I got the call to go back down,” he laughed. “I think I’ll just throw a few more loads in the washing machine than I normally would.”

 

 @TDNRyan

ryan.cooke@trurodaily.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

But one thing is for certain – wherever he is, he’ll be enjoying it.

The 27-year-old Birch Hill native has been riding cloud nine since being called up to the National Hockey League on Dec. 29. He’s played six games, made waves with a two-game suspension and even scored a goal.

It all started with an odd phone call while with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League.

“I got a call from my coach at about 2 or 3 p.m.,” Sill recalled. “It was kind of a strange situation, because usually your coach never calls you.”

Capitals forward Michael Latta had been injured in a fight the night before and he was out day-to-day. The team needed someone with grit to fill in on the fourth line.

After playing 30 games for the Bears, Sill had become a fan favourite. He was spending time in a leadership role as an alternate captain and even logging minutes as a second-line centre.

But now he was coming into the big leagues as the Capitals prepped for their second battle in a row against the Buffalo Sabres. After a raucous game the night before, many thought Sill was being called up to seek revenge on Sabres defenceman Nic Deslauriers for liberties taken in the first meeting.

But that wasn't the case.

“It was great to get that call, I mean I didn’t know if it was coming this season or not,” Sill said. “I wasn’t going up to be a goon, that’s not really my style. I was just going to play and try to impress and stay in the lineup.”

And he’s done just that so far. Capitals head coach Barry Trotz raved about Sill to the Washington Post earlier this week, complimenting improvements in his skating and versatility.

“His game has got a lot of substance to it,” Trotz told the Post. “He’s hard to play against, he can kill penalties, takes draws, all of those things. He’s got a lot of detail to his game, so he’s been a real pleasant surprise for us.”

Trotz even stuck by Sill after he was suspended two games for hitting Boston Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid from behind. Sill worried it would be the end of his stay, but an injury to Caps forward Jay Beagle earned Sill another shot. While centering the third line for a shift, he scored his first goal as a Capital against the Ottawa Senators.

Looking back on the punishment from the league office, he can breathe easier now knowing it all worked out. It may have even helped him, he jokes.

“I took a little heat for that suspension but it definitely got my name out there. Whether it was in a good way or not, I don’t know,” he laughed. “What is it they say? Any publicity is good publicity? Yeah, I guess we’ll see about that.”

Going from the minors to the best team in the NHL wasn’t a huge adjustment, he said. The teams play the same systems, so the hockey is still similar. His fiancée went with him and his routine hasn’t changed much. And if the ride ends tomorrow, he won’t be embittered.

“It’s been a really fun year (in Hershey) with a lot of young players to work with,” he said. “If I get sent back down, there won’t be any bad taste in my mouth. I’ll be hungry to work my way back up, but I won’t be upset.”

Nineteen days ago, Sill was told to pack a bag for a week and come to Washington. While it’s anybody’s guess when or if the Capitals send him down to Hershey, one thing is for sure – he won’t be going back for more clothes.

“I feel like that’s a bad omen, like the day I went back to get more stuff would be the day I got the call to go back down,” he laughed. “I think I’ll just throw a few more loads in the washing machine than I normally would.”

 

 @TDNRyan

ryan.cooke@trurodaily.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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