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McKee envisions visor

BOSTON -- The severe swelling under Jay McKee's right eye and the part of his face formerly known as his nose was enough for the Buffalo Sabres defenseman to consider wearing a protective visor for the first time in his career.

McKee broke his nose in several places during the first period Friday night when he was struck by a puck in a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Blood collected under his eye, which limited his vision Saturday and convinced him it could have been worse.

"It's something that crossed my mind quite a bit, more so this year than ever," said McKee, who sat out Saturday night's game against the Boston Bruins. "I've been pretty lucky when I look back. I've actually thought about it, and I'll probably wear the visor. After hockey's said and done, I would much rather see my children with two eyes than one."

McKee's injury helped resurrect the argument over whether protector visors should be mandatory in the NHL. They are required at all amateur levels, but not in the NHL or AHL. Thirty-eight percent of NHL players wear protective shields, compared to 24 percent five years ago. McKee would be the 14th player on the Sabres' roster to wear one assuming he continues once his face heals.

Several players acknowledged they removed them because they wanted to prove their bravery while actually confirming their recklessness. Columbus defenseman Bryan Berard has limited vision in one eye after being struck with a high stick. Mats Sundin, Steve Yzerman and Dany Heatley also suffered serious injuries.

"A lot of the players believe it hampers their ability to play well," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I really think it's one more piece of equipment that can make the player that much safer. If they can get used to it, it would be advantageous for them to wear."

The AHL is looking into making them mandatory, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has supported the idea. They are required in the East Coast Hockey League and the United Hockey League. If nothing else, it could save money on insurance premiums.

One argument against is players fighting while wearing them. Calgary's Jarome Iginla, for example, removes his helmet in that situation. Fighting is down 44 percent from two years ago. Players complained for years that visors fogged up from perspiration, but those wearing them now say the problem has been solved.

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In case you missed the highlights, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas had a blooper for the ages Friday night in a 4-2 loss to New Jersey when he allowed a goal that the worst Mini-Mite netminder would stop in his sleep.

Devils defenseman Paul Martin's clearing pass from his own zone bounced off the boards and crawled harmlessly toward the Boston net. Thomas was looking where he was going to pass and took his eye off the puck before it trickled in.

"Up to that point, I was feeling really good about myself," Thomas told the Boston Globe. "I had made about three or four passes all the way down the ice and was playing the puck well, and then I Bill Bucknered it."

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The Sabres-Bruins game seemed secondary in Beantown with Boston University playing Boston College for the right to play in the Frozen Four.

Sabres linemates Chris Drury and Mike Grier played together at Boston University and understood the magnitude of BU-BC. The two schools hadn't played each other in the NCAA Tournament since 1978 but are bitter cross-town rivals.

"I definitely follow them in games like this," Drury said.

Drury was disappointed in the result. Boston College won, 5-0.

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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