"The worstplace to get hit is in the groin. No question," says McKee, who led the NHLwith 241 blocks this year. "We've got top-of-the-line jocks. But I've takena number there, and it knocks the wind out of you." McKee wears guards onhis skates to protect his feet, and since having his nose broken by a shot onMarch 24, he wears a visor. Now, he says, "there's not so much worry aboutgoing down to one knee and using your face [to stop a puck]. Before I wouldprobably turn my head. Now you're just staring it down."
"You like toblock it where you have padding," says Stuart, who had 125 blocks thisseason. "Last month I took a shot off the [left] calf, and it swelled totwice the size of my other one. It was just a wrist shot, but it hit me in theright spot. Well, the wrong spot." Yet like most shot blockers Stuart isconcerned 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 blockit properly, it's not going to hurt," says Matvichuk, 33. "It's allabout positioning." While with the Stars in 2000--01 Matvichuk got a brokenjaw after taking a shot from current teammate Patrik Elias. ("They put in aplate and screws. But it was a successful block.") Remarkably, though, heescaped injury when tagged by a blast from defenseman Al MacInnis, whose100-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 thelocker room] to see how I was."
Despite playingseveral games wearing a face shield after taking a puck on the jaw, Skrastinshas 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 intoleranceof restraining fouls. "You can do almost nothing to the forwards," hesays. "Sometimes it's better to stand in front of him and block." WhileSkrastins admits that withstanding a big-windup slap shot "might hurt alittle more," he sees an upside: "That extra time he's taking gives youa chance to ... get closer to him."
BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES (RANGERS' KASPARAITIS, MATVICHUK ACTION); BILL WIPPERT (MCKEE ACTION, HEADSHOT); BRIAN BABINEAU/WIREIMAGE.COM (STUART ACTION, HEADSHOT); LOU CAPOZZOLA (MATVICHUK HEADSHOT); GARRETT W. ELLWOOD/WIREIMAGE.COM (SKRASTINS ACTION); DAVID E. KLUTHO (SKRASTINS HEADSHOT)