(Bruce Bennett/Getty)

The Capitals assigned Jack Hillen to the AHL’s Hershey Bears for a conditioning stint Tuesday, as the defenseman takes his next step in recovering from a fractured tibial plateau in his right leg.

Hillen is expected to suit up for the Bears on Tuesday night as they visit Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which will be the first game he’s played at any level since breaking his leg on Oct. 3 against Calgary in the Capitals’ second game of the season.

While the rehabilitation process has been a long one – Hillen wasn’t even allowed to walk on the injured leg for nine weeks – the 28-year-old defenseman has been working out with his teammates regularly since before the Olympic break. How he fares in AHL games should offer Hillen and the Capitals a good assessment of where he stands, and when he might be able to get back in the NHL lineup.

“There’s still some work to be done there before I can get back. “I need to make sure I can recover better, play back-to-back games” Hillen said last week, adding that the process has gone well so far. “I’m very happy with where I’m at. I think everything’s going great. I’m working hard the leg feels good on the ice and that’s important.”

According to Article 13.9 of the CBA, Hillen’s conditioning loan cannot exceed the longer of six days and three games. As for how it impacts the Capitals’ roster, Hillen remains on long-term injured reserve meaning he does not count toward the 23-man active roster and his salary still offers relief should the team exceed the salary cap.