Hillen out 4-6 months with leg fracture

Hillen out 4-6 months with leg fracture
October 5, 2013, 2:00 pm
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Wilson retaliates after Flames' hit on Hillen

Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen will be sidelined four to six months with a fractured right tibial plateau, the team announced on Saturday, one day after Hillen underwent surgery to repair the injury.

Hillen, 27, suffered the injury when he was check hard into the boards by Calgary Flames forward Lance Bouma in the first period of Thursday night’s 5-4 shootout win over the Calgary Flames.

The tibial plateau is located at the top of tibia, or shinbone, just below the knee. It is a critical weight-bearing area of the leg.

Under the best-case scenario, Hillen could return to the Caps’ lineup in early February; worst-case sometime in early April.

With the left-handed shooting Hillen out of the lineup, defenseman Steve Oleksy is expected to make his season debut tonight in Dallas against the Stars.

Oleksy is a right-handed shot and is likely to be paired with rookie defenseman Connor Carrick on the Caps’ third unit. If that happens it will mark the first time this season the Caps will go with a defense pairing with two right-handed shots.

And that’s something that bothers Caps coach Adam Oates.

“I don’t like it,” Oates said.

Oates has an obsession with keeping right-handed shooters on the right side of the ice and left-handed shooters on the left, especially on the blue line.

Why?

“The game is so fast you get into situations where you’re stuck,” Oates said. “Your back is to the play, you have blind spots and you don’t know where your outs are and you end up making tough passes because you think a guy’s open and he closes on you fast.”

In non-hockey jargon, Oates does not want his defensemen retrieving pucks on their backhands, where they are more vulnerable to making passes that are intercepted for scoring attempts.

Oates is a bit of a revolutionary when it comes to this. It’s the reason he convinced Alex Ovechkin, who shoots right, to switch from left wing to right wing.

“It is hard to convince a player,” Oates said. “And you know what? Not everyone agrees with me. To me, I want to make a guy succeed as much as possible. If I can make him better, why not?”

Take Zdeno Chara, for example. The 6-foot-9 defenseman shoots left and played on the right side during his eight-year career with the Islanders and Senators. But when he joined the Bruins in 2006, he switched to his left or “strong” side.

“I hated to play against him in Ottawa,” Oates said. “Do I think he’s better? Yes. But I think his team is better because he’s over there.”

In a nutshell, that’s why the Capitals’ long-term replacement for Hillen must be a left-handed shot.

The highest-rated prospects on the Caps’ current roster are Alex Urbom, who was claimed off waivers Thursday after three years in the Devils organization, and Dmitry Orlov, who had an uneven training camp and was sent to Hershey.