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"The worst place to get hit is in the groin. No question," says McKee, who led the NHL with 241 blocks this year. "We've got top-of-the-line jocks. But I've taken a number there, and it knocks the wind out of you." McKee wears guards on his skates to protect his feet, and since having his nose broken by a shot on March 24, he wears a visor. Now, he says, "there's not so much worry about going down to one knee and using your face [to stop a puck]. Before I would probably turn my head. Now you're just staring it down."
"You like to block it where you have padding," says Stuart, who had 125 blocks this season. "Last month I took a shot off the [left] calf, and it swelled to twice the size of my other one. It was just a wrist shot, but it hit me in the right spot. Well, the wrong spot." Yet like most shot blockers Stuart is concerned less about the pain than the gain--keeping a puck out of the net. "You've got to be on the guy's stick," and not play the body, he says. "You want to avoid sliding.... As soon as [the shooter] sees you slide, he's going to step around you."
"If you block it properly, it's not going to hurt," says Matvichuk, 33. "It's all about positioning." While with the Stars in 2000--01 Matvichuk got a broken jaw after taking a shot from current teammate Patrik Elias. ("They put in a plate and screws. But it was a successful block.") Remarkably, though, he escaped injury when tagged by a blast from defenseman Al MacInnis, whose 100-mile-per-hour shots were notorious. "He got me in the back of the leg. No padding," says Matvichuk. "He actually sent someone down [to the locker room] to see how I was."
Despite playing several games wearing a face shield after taking a puck on the jaw, Skrastins has played in 433 straight games He says he has emerged as a top shot blocker (207 this season, second to McKee) partly because of the NHL's new intolerance of restraining fouls. "You can do almost nothing to the forwards," he says. "Sometimes it's better to stand in front of him and block." While Skrastins admits that withstanding a big-windup slap shot "might hurt a little more," he sees an upside: "That extra time he's taking gives you a chance to ... get closer to him."