Jake McCabe looked worse than he felt Wednesday.
The Buffalo Sabres' defenseman sported a shiner on his left eye and cuts both below and above it – the result of a hit that McCabe actually delivered Tuesday night during a 2-1 loss to Edmonton.
McCabe laid out Oilers forward Nail Yakupov in the third period, but took the worst of the collision when Yakupov's helmet came up and hit McCabe in the face.
"He tried to cut to the middle and I hit him and as you can see on my face, his helmet went right in my head and just kind of shocked me a little bit," McCabe said. "But I came back in here and passed all my concussion tests and no symptoms since, so all is well."
With McCabe able to practice Wednesday afternoon, the Sabres had six healthy defensemen on the ice. Cody Franson remains out, as do forwards Ryan O'Reilly and Tyler Ennis.
Since playing a season-low 9:34 against Florida on Feb. 9, McCabe's ice time has shot up. He's skated more than 20 minutes in six of the last 10 games, and has two assists and a plus-3 rating in that time.
Speaking Monday following the NHL trade deadline, Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said McCabe has made "huge strides."
"It's good to hear, but kind of from Day One we've all been saying that's what we want to do is improve each and every day," said McCabe, 22. "Throughout this locker rooom we've made improvements. We've had stretches of really good play. We just need to start getting over that hump and winning hockey games and learning how to win. I'm young and we've got a lot of young guys in this room and we just got to learn how to win and just continue to grow in that area."
That didn't happen against the Oilers, with McCabe lamenting the number of turnovers committed by the defense.
"It's one of those things where we got away from what we were doing well and we need to get back on track tomorrow night," he said. "We've got to put the onus on us defenseman. We've got to be quarterbacks of the transition game. We want to move the puck quick north and get established in their offensive zone. ... As defensemen, we need to do a better job of getting in their zone and establishing a transition game."