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Gill has both sides covered

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / April 17, 2011

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Fresh out of college, at his first NHL training camp with the Bruins in 1997, Hal Gill was projected to start the season in Providence.

Instead, he impressed the front office enough to win a job in Boston, and played only four minor league games. Now 36 and in his 13th NHL season, the Montreal defenseman went into last night’s game against his former team with 994 regular-season games under his belt, and Game 2 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series marked his 100th postseason game.

Gill, in his second year with Montreal, said it has been interesting to see this rivalry from the other side.

“It was very different at first,’’ said Gill, who grew up in Concord. “But I think I’m kind of growing into it.

“Being part of this rivalry was always something I loved as a Bruin. You feel like you’re part of something bigger than just the game. It’s one of the best rivalries ever.

“In Boston, we love to hate. So we hate Montreal. When you’re in Montreal, it’s a lot more about the rivalry. When you go to those games, you know it’s going to be an exciting game, and I think they embrace that a lot more than maybe we do in Boston.’’

It was Gill and defense partner P.K. Subban who stifled the Bruins’ top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton in Montreal’s Game 1 victory Thursday.

“We tried to take away time and space, and we’re a better team when we are playing our way and playing in their end and working our forecheck, and I think we did that a lot,’’ said Gill. “I know they’re not happy with what they did and I assume they’re going to do some things different and do some things harder, and we’ve got to be ready for that and try to keep going the way we can play and try to impose that on them.’’

Gill played 36 playoff games in five postseasons with Boston, 44 in two years with the Penguins, and last night suited up for his 20th with the Canadiens.

“That’s something I guess I never really appreciated,’’ said Gill, who also played two seasons with the Maple Leafs. “We had our cracks in Boston. It was tough in Toronto when we missed [the playoffs] by a point. You work so hard to get there and to miss it by 1 point was tough.

“In Pittsburgh, we had that run [to the Stanley Cup in 2009], and we realized what it takes to get that far and the sacrifices you make in a playoff game. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s very rewarding when it works out right.

“It’s nice to play that many and I hope to play a lot more. That’s what you play for. Every playoff game is huge and every play makes a difference and that’s what I really enjoy.’’

When he began his career, Gill didn’t know how long he would last in the NHL or with the Bruins. He didn’t know where the journey would take him.

“It’s funny how things work out, right time and right place,’’ he said. “I did whatever I could do to get that chance, and years later I’m on the other side.’’

He has nothing but fond memories of his eight years with the Bruins, even though some of them were tumultuous.

“Absolutely, it was home for me,’’ he said. “It was a dream come true for me to play with Ray Bourque, to play with the Bruins, and it would be a dream come true to beat them.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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