The last two years have not been kind to Washington defenseman Jack Hillen.
He missed 60 games with a fractured tibial plateau and, upon returning to the lineup, suffered a concussion after colliding with Alex Ovechkin. Then, this summer, he complained of lingering knee pain that carried over from the end of the regular season — which turned out to be a staph infection, stemming from a plate screwed into his knee.
“I was on antibiotics for a month,” Hillen told the Washington Post. “Ever since I got that taken care of, I feel so much better … I’m 100 percent, ready to go. I feel strong, back to where I was before the injury. It gives me closure, because now I know why I was having pain when I came back and played, why I wasn’t feeling well.
“Now I feel like I’ve jumped back.”
It’ll be interesting to see where Hillen fits in Washington’s rotation this year. At 28, he’s only played a handful of games over the last two seasons — 36, to be exact — and the Caps loaded up the blueline this offseason by adding the likes of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Assuming the top six is comprised of Niskanen, Orpik, John Carlson, Mike Green, Karl Alzner and Dmitry Orlov, Hillen projects to be battling with the likes of John Erskine, Connor Carrick and Nate Schmidt as the next man up (or seventh defenseman, should head coach Barry Trotz dress that many.)
But speaking of Trotz, that’s something Hillen has going for him. The former Colorado College standout played under Trotz in Nashville during the 2011-12 campaign and had a pretty good year, appearing in 55 games while making his Stanley Cup playoff debut.