In the pros: Hillen injury, Crabb, Prosser, Schwartz, Stuart, AHL

Hillen shootsFrom the Washington Times …

TAMPA, Fla. | Washington Capitals defenseman and former Tiger Jack Hillen left Saturday night’s season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning after taking a hit into the boards from Vinny Lecavalier.

Hillen’s left shoulder hit into the boards after Lecavalier struck him with what appeared to be a clean check. He was down on the ice and in pain until the whistle blew with 8:17 left in the second period.

Hillen was attended to on the ice but skated off under his own power, favoring his left arm. Hillen did not return. Coach Adam Oates said the defenseman had an upper-body injury but offered no other update.

Hillen, who’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, signed a one-year contract with the Caps in July. He was making his Washington debut.

Adam Oates dressed seven defensemen and 11 forwards, so Hillen’s injury knocked the Caps down to the usual six. No penalty was called on the play. Joey Crabb was a healthy scratch.

In other former Tigers news, Nate Prosser logged 12:10 in the Wild’s 4-2 win over Colorado. Jaden Schwartz played 11:59 in St. Louis’ 6-0 win over Detroit, , took two shots, blocked two shots and one hit. Winnipeg’s Mark Stuart drew an early boarding call that set up a Jets’ 1-0 lead on a power-play goal.

Both Richard Bachman and Toby Petersen, who enters his 13th professional season in 2012-13, his ninth in the AHL, are starting the season with the Texas Stars. Petersen signed a two-year two-way contract with Dallas on July 2, 2012.

Kris Fredheim has five points (four assists) in 24 games with the AHL’s Houston Aeros. Brian Connelly had 22 points (20 assists) in 33 games before a recent injury. Chad Rau has seven points (four goals) in 24 games with Houston.

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NHL free agency: Hillen joins Crabb in Washington

CC fans have another reason to follow the Washington Capitals (which also have David Civitarese in AHL Hershey) closely this upcoming season.

Former Tiger Jack Hillen, pictured, signed a one-year $650,000 NHL-only contract with the Caps on Tuesday morning. It looks like Washington expects him to contribute at the top club.

That leaves nine former Tigers (as of 10 a.m. MT) weighing their free agency options. They are (name, 2011-12 team):  Richard Bachman (Dallas): Brian Connelly (Calgary); Mark Cullen (Florida); Kris Fredheim (Wild); Trevor Frischmon, (Islanders); Richard Petiot (Tampa Bay);  Brett Sterling (Blues), Colin Stuart (Sabres) and Mike Testwuide (Flyers).

Here is the Hillen press release:

The Capitals announced Tuesday morning they have signed defenseman Jack Hillen to a one-year contract. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hillen, 26, had six points (two goals, four assists), a plus-6 rating and 20 penalty minutes in 55 games with the Nashville Predators in 2011-12. He finished tied for eighth on the club in blocked shots (65).

The Minnetonka, Minn., native has 56 points (10 goals, 46 assists) and 129 penalty minutes in 230 NHL games with the Islanders and Nashville. He posted career highs in goals (four), assists (tied; 18), points (22) and penalty minutes (45) during the 2010-11 campaign with the Isles.

Hillen (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) spent four seasons with Colorado College of the WCHA, where he was teammates with newly acquired Caps forward Joey Crabb. Hillen earned WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, WCHA First All-Star Team and NCAA (West) First All-American Team honors during his senior season in 2008. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Islanders on April 1, 2008.

Wednesday reading: Weekly honors, UNO rink, J. Schwartz, WCHA women, AFA honor

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) and defenseman Jack Hillen stop a Kings shot during the first period Monday. / Sanford Myers / The Tennessean

Two Gophers were honored by the WCHA this week.

UNO coach Dean Blais is trying to jump start the school’s effort to get its own 8,000-seat arena on campus. No doubt, such a move would be huge for the program, especially from a financial viewpoint (concessions, parking revenue, etc.).

Here’s a look at Wisconsin’s road playoff possibilities.

CC assistant Eric Rud was checking out the NAHL’s top prospects recently.

From stltoday.com: Blues GM Doug Armstrong believes Colorado College forward Jaden Schwartz is close to NHL-ready, and why not? He was captain of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. He has scored 12 goals and added 24 assists in 26 college games this season.

Colorado College has won just one of its last six games. At 16-14-2 overall and 13-12-1 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Schwartz’s team is on the outside of the NCAA’s 16-team national tourney bracket looking in.

Perhaps Colorado College can win the WCHA tourney and the automatic berth that goes with it. Or perhaps Jaden will have to decide whether to turn pro earlier than he expected.

Schwartz is a skilled player, but his character is what sets him apart. He appears to be a natural leader. “When you play, you want to make the players around you better,” he told the Colorado Springs Gazette earlier this season. “Whether teams are on you more or not, that’s something you’ve got to battle through. Every player has been through that at different levels.”

Pine Creek graduate Emily West’s play will be critical for the Minnesota women in the WCHA Frozen Faceoff (league semifinals and championship) this weekend in Duluth.

This sick little boy has been inspired by the Brown Bears and they have been motivated by him.

From AFA sports information:

Air Force sophomore Jason Torf was named the Atlantic Hockey Association Goalie of the Month for February as he helped lead Air Force to a 5-2-1 record and the AHA regular-season championship.

Torf, from Hermosa Beach, Calif., posted a 1.11 goals-against average and a .956 saves percentage in the month. He recorded four shutouts in eight starts as he blanked RIT (3-0 on Feb. 3), Niagara (2-0 on Feb. 10), Mercyhurst (8-0 on Feb. 17) and Robert Morris (3-0 on Feb. 25). Three of his four shutouts came against teams ranked in the top four in the league. Torf led AFA to the league title by stopping all 25 shots he faced in the final regular-season game at Robert Morris, Feb. 25. The night before, he made a season high 35 saves against the Colonials.

After missing almost three months and 14 games with a groin injury, Torf has come back to be among the national leaders in every goaltending category. In all games, he ranks third in the nation in goals-against average (1.65), seventh in shutouts (4) and eighth in saves percentage (.931)

The Atlantic Hockey monthly honor was his first of the season and second of his career. Air Force, 17-9-7 overall and 15-6-6 in the league, earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The Falcons will host an AHA quarterfinal series, March 9-11, at the Cadet Ice Arena.

In the pros: Packers fan Hillen settling into role in Nashville

After former Tiger Jack Hillen was a healthy scratch Tuesday at Colorado, I’m happy see there’s this NHL.com article about his unsung contributions to Nashville.