Hillen: 'I drank lots of milk as a kid, I swear'

Hillen: 'I drank lots of milk as a kid, I swear'
December 2, 2013, 3:15 pm
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Caps top 5 plays of the week: 12.2.13

May 10, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen shoots the puck during the game against the New York Rangers in game five of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center.

(Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen still remembers the sound his right leg made when he placed weight on it after being checked into the boards by Calgary Flames forward Lance Bouma back on Oct. 3.

“As soon as I got hit, I felt something pop,” Hillen told reporters Monday after hobbling into the Capitals dressing room on crutches. “I just didn't know what it was.”

That night Hillen, 27, learned he suffered a fracture of his tibia plateau, which is located just below the knee, and that it would require a stabilizing plate, five screws and three months without placing any weight on it.

“It wasn’t shattered; it was a pretty clean break,” Hillen said, “but they still had to put it back together.”

Hillen’s NHL career has been slowed by serious injuries. Last season he broke his ribs in the first game of the season and missed two months. As a member of the Islanders he missed extensive time with a broken jaw from an Alex Ovechkin slapshot, and when he was in Nashville he was sidelined with a concussion.

“What can you do?” said Hillen, who has another year remaining on a contract that pays him $700,000 a season. “I’ve had a broken jaw, broken ribs and broken knee. I drank lots of milk as a kid, I swear. What can you do about it? I mean, they're freak injuries. Maybe I need a sacrifice a live chicken or something. I've got to try to find a way to stay positive. And that's been the biggest challenge."

Hillen needs to wait another month before he can put any weight on his right leg, which makes it impossible for him to anything more than upper body strengthening. He declined to put a timetable on his recovery, but made it clear he wants to return this season.

“They want to be safe because if the knee moves or something doesn't heal right, it can be a lot of long-term damage to it,” he said. “I'm trying to do as much as I can so my muscle doesn't just atrophy completely.

“I'm hoping I'm ready to go this year. Whenever I get back, a lot of things can happen and change. I don't want to mess up the rhythm of the team, but if they need me, I'm trying to be available for them. If they want to use me, that's their call.”