Scattered Clouds 46° Good Afternoon
Scattered Clouds 46° Good Afternoon

Jack Hillen thought he'd be back even sooner

Although that seems crazy considering Hillen's rapid recovery from such a frightening injury, he said he honestly thought he could play the next game (if that is not a great example of how tough these guys are, what is? I mean, besides getting hit by a truck...)

In hindsight, he said, he's glad that he didn't screw around. After all, it is his face.

Hillen shared his frustrating recovery process for the past month, and like I mentioned earlier this week, he was very fortunate to avoid getting his jaw wired shut. That limited Hillen's weight loss to about ten pounds.

For the first two weeks, he had to adhere to a liquid diet and eat through a straw. Hillen even branched out from the traditional shakes and smoothies and concocted some of his own recipes.

So sick of chicken broth and his other usual drinks, Hillen blended a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The result? Good for the first couple sips...and then not.

Ok so he may not be embarking on any Jamba Jack ventures anytime soon, but that's okay since he's got a pretty good day job to fall back on.

Here's the story below:

Despite a relatively speedy recovery, Jack Hillen actually believed he’d return much sooner.

After enduring four hours of surgery to repair a broken jaw and damaged teeth, the 24-year-old Islanders defenseman asked his doctor if he’d be ready to play the next day against Carolina.

Naturally the request elicited an incredulous response.

“The doctor looked at me and said, ‘You’re crazy’’” Hillen recounted with a laugh.

Although it wasn’t as hasty as he would’ve liked, Hillen is poised to return a little more than a month after taking an Alex Ovechkin-slapshot to the face January 26, a grisly injury that left Hillen hazy and bloodied as he was helped off the ice. Initially projected to miss six to eight weeks, the young blue-liner is expected to return Tuesday against Chicago after missing only nine games.

“Whenever I get back out there, it’s going to be a blast,” said Hillen, who has two goals and 14 assists in 49 games for the Islanders this season.

Fortunately, Hillen’s oral surgeons opted to stabilize his jaw with two metal plates and 12 screws, allowing him to avoid getting his jaw wired shut and limiting his weight loss.

Although Hillen had to adhere to a diet of liquids—smoothies, nutrition shakes and blended soup—for two weeks and still eats only soft foods that don’t require much chewing, he’s only lost about ten pounds.

The toughest part now for Hillen will be getting back to game-playing condition and trying to pick up where he left off—amidst a rapidly ascending progression and emergence as one of the team’s top defensemen.

“He was playing some of his best hockey those last eight weeks. That’s the tough part for him and for us as well,” assistant coach Dean Chynoweth said. “All he can do is what is asked of him and just slowly chip away.”

Chynoweth also said he has noticed no tentativeness in Hillen’s game since suffering the injury.

“I think off the ice you may have a thought. But when you go out there you just go out and play, there’s not enough time for that,” Hillen said. “When I’m out there, skating and going hard, it doesn’t cross my mind at all, but when you’re watching a drill and you see a puck go whizzing past a guy’s ear, you know how that feels. You look at it differently.”

His days of watching will soon be halted, however, once Hillen rejoins the Islanders lineup.

“It’s one of those things you take for granted when you’re playing and playing well,” Hillen said. “ I just want to get back the and help the team.”

**Hillen will be wearing a shield and protective chin guard (similar to Teemu Selanne) for the rest of the season. Although Hillen said that he feels the puck sometimes disappears into a blind spot, that it's pretty comfortable and serves as a reminder not to being playing with his head down. 

New York Sports