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More NHL defensemen are taking hits to block shots

More players are willing to put their bodies between the puck and the goal. Improvements in equipment have made such moves less painful.

November 05, 2011|By Lisa Dillman
  • Edmonton's Ladislav Smid dives to block the puck from Kings right wing Dustin Brown during the Oilers' 3-0 victory Thursday night at Staples Center.
Edmonton's Ladislav Smid dives to block the puck from Kings right… (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire )

The Kings were almost like students getting a long lesson last week, given a three-period tutorial on the art of shot-blocking by the Oilers.

Edmonton came close to blocking two dozen shots in its 3-0 victory over the Kings on Thursday night, eventually landing at a tidy 22 blocked shots.

Of course it helps to have the league leader in that department, Ladislav Smid, acting as a human pinata. The Oilers defenseman is No. 1 with 45 blocked shots in 12 games. Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin is second with 38 blocked shots in 13 games.

Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi spoke about the numbers seeming to trend upward. He talked Friday after practice, the day before he was scheduled to play his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, at Staples Center.

"I think maybe you've seen an increase in the number of blocked shots because more of the emphasis on the offensive end is shooting the puck," Scuderi said.

"If you're in the right position, you'll probably get a block. I'm not sure what the number would be, but I'm sure if you took the shots plus the shots attempted you'd have a pretty high number. The chances are 20-25% of those are getting blocked. It's about being in the right position and hopefully some hit you."

Said Kings forward Justin Williams: "Guys are willing to pay the price to do anything to block the shot. And the equipment we have, we should be.

"Way back when, there wasn't a lot of shot-blocking. Simply wasn't worth it back then."

Yes, not quite worth a broken foot.

Unlike some players, Scuderi doesn't wear extra protection on his skates. . He tried it years ago but said it felt clunky.

The fear factor is lessened with enhanced protection.

"Guys aren't as afraid to stick your foot out, which is usually a no-no, if you don't like a broken foot." Scuderi said. "Some guys are a little more fearless now."

Kings Coach Terry Murray noticed the sea change, post-lockout, with the rule changes. He was an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers and noticed big men struggling with the new world order, mentioning two players, specifically.

There was 6-foot-5 Mike Rathje, who finished his career in Philadelphia and 6-5 Derian Hatcher, who also completed his NHL playing days with the Flyers

"It was very hard for some of those guys to play their game, which was hook and hack and whack," Murray said. "So the attitude came to step in front of the player that was screening the goaltender rather than competing and battling and cross-checking. Now, just get above him.

"That's what we saw last night. They were above the man at the net and they blocked a lot of shots."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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