Suspension served, Hill now eager to join team

  • Article by: Michael Russo
  • Star Tribune
  • November 18, 2007 - 12:09 AM

Wild defenseman Sean Hill has seen enough of assistant coaches Mario Tremblay and Mike Ramsey and strength coach Kirk Olson to last a lifetime. He's spent an extensive amount of time in the gym and has skated long after his teammates have left the ice.

Hill is ready to play and finally eligible to do so. Perhaps that will come today against the Colorado Avalanche because he's formally served the final 19 games of his 20-game suspension for becoming the first NHL player to test positive for steroids.

"I'm as ready as I can be," said Hill, a Duluth native who denies he used steroids last season while playing for the Islanders. "Obviously there are times when I'm a bit rusty, and maybe my timing won't be where it should be, but I think we've done everything we can as far as preparing, and the rest of the stuff's going to come the more I play."

Hill, a former University of Wisconsin standout who finished third in the NHL last season with 252 hits and sixth with 202 blocked shots, hasn't played in seven months. It could take awhile for the 37-year-old to get accustomed to the speed.

"It doesn't matter what you do in the time leading up," Hill said. "There's nothing like playing in a game, there's nothing like battling a 220-pound guy in the corner for 15 seconds, then having to try to get the puck and make a play. There's some things you just can't simulate.

"I might not feel like I'm quite as fresh in the last 10 minutes of the game as I am in the first, but there will be no lack of hard work and battling."

General Manager Doug Risebrough is not worried.

"I don't think it'll be easy," Risebrough said. "But I always have a higher comfort level with players that are competitive. He's got enough experience that he's not going to get rattled if it's not working at the start."

Hill gives the Wild eight defensemen -- or two extra. Risebrough is comfortable with that, especially after seeing how many injuries the Wild sustained last season.

One of Hill's closest friends is fellow vet Keith Carney, born 11 days before Hill in 1970. Hill knows one byproduct of his return could be taking Carney's spot.

"It's a business; it's the nature of the beast," Hill said. "He's a pro, and I'm a pro, and if one is in and the other's out, we know how the other guy's feeling."

Michael Russo •

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