Zach Sill was told to pack for one week, and he figured that was generous. Michael Latta had hurt his arm in a fight against Buffalo’s Nicolas Deslauriers, so Sill was recalled from the American Hockey League to center the fourth line the next game. Latta’s injury was minor, so Sill tempered his expectations.
But then the Washington Capitals were down two centers in the third period of that next game and Sill was suddenly counted on more. Center Jay Beagle needed hand surgery, which will put him out for another month, and more than two weeks after Sill was told to pack for a week, he’s still with the Capitals.
“I didn’t know how long I was going to be up, but you try not to think about that,” Sill said. “You just go and play your game. … I keep getting pretty good bounces and managing to stay in the lineup. I don’t know where it’s going to go from here, but it’s been nice being up.”
The Capitals signed Sill to a two-way, one-year deal, boosting their organizational depth up the middle by adding the 27-year-old unrestricted free agent. The career fourth-liner had played 83 career NHL games, notching four points and 86 penalty minutes, including nine fights last season alone.
But while it initially seemed as if Washington had recalled Sill to be an enforcer in a second straight game against the Sabres, Sill has yet to drop his gloves. Coach Barry Trotz said he was happy with Sill’s training camp, one of Washington’s last cuts. He’s continued to impress him.
“I knew he was a terrific person and he brings a physical game and he can kill penalties, but I think his skating has improved from what I remembered to what I see now,” Trotz said. “He’s fit in very good, and he’s one of those guys that can fit into your room very easily, personality-wise. And then his game has got a lot of substance to it. 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.”
In Washington’s 7-1 rout of the Ottawa Senators on Sunday — a game that will always be remembered as the one Alex Ovechkin scored his 500th goal — Sill scored the second goal of his NHL career. With the signing of center Mike Richards and the team’s forward corps mostly healthy, it’s unclear how long Sill’s stint with the Capitals will last.
“I’ll always have a helping reminder to know when I scored my first Washington Capitals goal, that’s for sure,” Sill said. “It was pretty awesome to be a part of that, a part of Ovi’s 500th. It’s certainly something I’ll never forget because of my goal and because of that.”