- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

After Marc Staal took a puck to the right eye that put him out of the New York Rangers’ lineup indefinitely, brothers Eric and Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes heeded their mother’s advice and began wearing visors Tuesday night.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re invincible, but as many guys have seen, you’re not,” Eric Staal told reporters in Raleigh, N.C., last week. “Unfortunate injuries can happen. It’s just being smarter.”

Washington Capitals center Mathieu Perreault found out Tuesday night in his 144th NHL game with a visor that they are far from perfect. He left the game in pain when his visor broke, requiring stitches to repair repair cuts on his face.

Coach Adam Oates said Perreault was “cut pretty good” when the top of New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo’s stick broke the shield as he was sliding to the ice. Oates said Perreault would be OK.

Forward Brooks Laich, who does not wear a visor but had to while playing in Europe during the lockout, has cautioned on numerous occasions that they’re not foolproof.

“Visors can also be hazards out there. Visors can break,” he said last season. “I’ve seen visors break and cut players. I’ve seen visors get pushed down and cut players. They could be a hazard, too. I don’t think you’re ever going to be safe unless maybe you went to a full shield, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”

The NHL wants to make visors mandatory for incoming players, potentially grandfathering in those already in the league. The NHL Players’ Association educates players on the matter but supports “individual choice,” according to Mathieu Schneider, a former defenseman who serves as special assistant to executive director Donald Fehr.

According to NHLPA figures, approximately 73 percent of players are wearing visors this season. That’s up from 28 percent in 2001-02, a number published by The Hockey News.

Jordan Staal said last week that grandfathering in current players probably made the most sense if a rule is approved.

“It’s a smart thing to wear,” Staal said. “There’s no question. It’s a good thing I’m trying it.”

Perreault is generally listed at 5-foot-10. When asked recently about visor choice, he said he’d be “too scared” not to wear one.

“I’m like this high. I feel like everything is just coming this way,” Perreault said, making a motion across his eye level. “If I was [6-6 defenseman Jeff Schultz], for sure, I would probably go no visor because you’re so far up. But for me, there’s no way.”

Hillen fits in

Defenseman Jack Hillen said he’d be lying if he thought after missing almost two months that the Caps would count on him in a top-four role.

“It surprised me a little bit,” said Hillen, who used to play heavy minutes for the Islanders. “I’ll do whatever they ask me to do. If they want me to play top-four minutes, I’m more than willing to do it and have fun doing it. As long as this team’s winning, that’s really all that matters.”

Hillen has averaged more than 19 minutes in six games since his return. Along the way, Oates has praised the 27-year-old’s skating ability.

“I think that’s the NHL today: You’ve got to be able to skate,” Hillen said. “You can’t be slow out there. The game’s too fast. You’ve got to be able to get back and be able to get up in the play for defensive reasons. … It helps close gaps and helps you be a better defenseman when you’re able to skate and get up in the play.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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