It didn’t take Jack Hillen long to make an impact in his return to the Nashville Predators lineup on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Having only played one game in the month of February, Hillen played against the Los Angeles Kings due to an injury to Kevin Klein and the fact that Ryan Ellis had not arrived from his Monday afternoon call-up.
“I know my role right now,” Hillen said. “If something happens to somebody, I need to be able to step in and be ready.”
At 6:03 of the first period, Los Angeles had an offensive chance. Dustin Penner put a shot on the Predator net. Pekka Rinne made the save, but Trevor Lewis found the rebound and tried another shot. Hillen, however, laid down in front of the goal and made the save himself.
“We came back and somehow somebody got open in front of the net,” Hillen said. “I came back to help out. Pekka made the initial save and it kicked right out to their guy. I had to go down, there was no option.”
In the first period, Hillen made three total blocks – the same total that he finished the game with.
“I actually didn’t feel that great in the first period – it takes a little while to get used to being in a game situation,” Hillen said. “After the first period, I started feeling better as the game went on.”
His last game had been on February 11 in Boston in the Predators’ 4-3 shootout loss to the defending Stanley Cup Champion. He had been a healthy scratch in Nashville’s last 6 games.
“You just have to get out there and each shift get a little better,” Hillen said. “Keep it simple and move on, but I definitely felt some rust in the first.”
Nashville head coach Barry Trotz agreed that Hillen was rusty, but was please with his performance overall.
“I thought Jack did pretty good tonight,” Trotz said. “He hadn’t played for a while. It was a tough go in terms of the way Los Angeles played. You could tell he was a little rusty, but he battled through it.”