Wild players happy visors not mandatory

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2013 - 2:15 AM
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Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner (4)

Photo: Jonathan Hayward, Associated Press

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New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal’s eye injury after being struck by a puck last week has rekindled the visor debate.

The NHL has long been on record as saying it would like to make visors mandatory, but the NHL Players’ Association has for years fought against encroachment into areas of player choice.

Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner is sporting a nasty shiner around his left eye. He took five stitches after being struck by a puck in Friday’s practice and admits a visor would have prevented it. Still, Stoner says he will remain one of five Wild players — Mike Rupp, Kyle Brodziak, Ryan Suter and Zenon Konopka being the others — to not wear a visor.

Stoner says for him it’s about vision and comfort. “I’m getting pressure from my family,” he said, “but I haven’t worn one, so I don’t really want to start.”

In Slovakia during the lockout, Stoner wore a visor. “I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it,” he said. “It’s probably stubbornness. It’s nice not having it on. It’s just annoying when the visor gets water on it and I’m used to not having it on.”

For Rupp, his choice to not wear a visor has to do with his role. He’s a hard-nosed 6-foot-5, 243-pounder with 78 career fights.

“I feel like if I had a visor on, I’d probably have to take the helmet off to fight,” Rupp said. “So you’re weighing that against each other — take the helmet off to fight 15 times a year is probably not good either. I’ve thought about it for years. I think taking the helmet off is a higher risk with falling down or taking punches to the head.”

Dany Heatley suffered a serious injury during the 2004-05 lockout when he was struck by a puck playing in Switzerland. He broke his orbital bone and his left eye is permanently dilated.

Stoner, Heatley’s close friend, still says that despite the safety issue, he will only put on a visor if the union “doesn’t give us a choice.”

“They’ve always been good about letting us make choices, so the decision’s got to come from the union instead of the players,” he said.

What about Granlund?

With the Wild starting to find identities with four lines, forwards Pierre Marc Bouchard and Mikael Granlund were the odd men out again.

The Wild’s getting strong play lately from fourth-liners Rupp, Konopka and Torrey Mitchell. Coach Mike Yeo admitted after Saturday’s 4-2 win over Vancouver that he has a lot of faith in the line. One wonders if this means Granlund, who has had trouble finding a role and has been scratched in four of eight games, winds up back in Houston.

Yeo said the Wild has to be focused on the best lineup to win games now, “but we’re also aware about what’s going on in the future and he’s a … huge part of our future.

“We’ll do whatever we can to try to help his development, and make sure we’re not hurting it in any way.”

Goalies wanted

After scrambling to get a half-dozen goalies into Houston’s lineup last season, Aeros General Manager Jim Mill is once again scouring the depth charts.

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