Coyotes defenseman Rusty Klesla fights for possession of the puck against… (Joe Mahoney / Associated…)
You can cue up more than a few cringe-worthy clips on YouTube of Coyotes defenseman Rusty Klesla getting hit in the face last season.
After one painful incident, he returned to action wearing a full cage, for extra protection. Klesla played for the Czech club HC Trinec during the lockout in the fall and, as required, wore a face shield and eventually adjusted to it.
Klesla was talking the morning after a particularly scary injury to the right eye of the Rangers’ Marc Staal, who was hit by a deflected puck. Staal was not wearing a protective visor and the injury has renewed fierce debate about making them mandatory for NHL players.
“When I [first] went to NHL, I just took the shield off and thought it was something, better vision,” Klesla said Wednesday. “I got so used to it.... I got hit a couple of times last year and I put it on. You can get used to it.
“In the lockout, you have to wear it in Europe and I did wear it and it was OK. It was something I was maybe considering putting on. I just haven’t done it. Maybe for the guys that get hit, it’s so alarming, they put it on and stick with it.
“I just hope that nothing is going to happen to me. I’ll try to be careful, even sometimes you can’t prevent it, like the Staal thing.”
He gave an example of the random nature of the fast-moving game when the Coyotes were recently playing the Canucks.
“There was a pass and I was going to get it and a guy tips it right in front of me, maybe eight feet,” Klesla said. “A hard pass and it goes straight to my helmet. This was in Vancouver maybe 10 days ago. If that goes lower, it’s right in my eye. It’s a couple of inches and you are looking at disaster.”
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