Blueline Buds in tough company

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:33 AM ET

TORONTO -- You can't put a number on heart and guts in the NHL.

Actually, you can. Sort of.

There are only 20 players in the NHL who have recorded double digits in both hits and blocked shots this season, and the Leafs have one of them with another likely joining that select list tonight when Toronto hosts the Calgary Flames at the Air Canada Centre.

Not surprisingly, both are defencemen.

Jeff Finger has recorded 115 hits and 128 blocked shots, while rookie blueliner Luke Schenn has 99 blocks and 172 hits.

Blueliner Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins is the unofficial leader in the hits/blocks with a combined total of 388 with the Canadiens' Mike Komisarek second with 330. Finger's total numbers put him 14th overall in the combined categories (243).

Hits and blocked shots are not exactly glamour statistics, but both Finger and Schenn take pride in the fact they are among the league leaders in those categories.

"That's what I've tried to do my whole career," said Finger, of his penchant for hitting and blocking shots. "That's what got me here and that's what I'm going to continue to try to do. I guess you could compare us to an offensive lineman -- an important thing, but you might not get as much recognition. But that's OK in my book."

Of course, hitting and throwing yourself in front of a frozen rubber disc that often travels over 100 m.p.h. carries an increased risk of injury, but not always injuries that put a player on the shelf.

It's likely Finger and Schenn are among the leaders inside the Leafs dressing room in bumps, bruises, contusions and other 'minor' injuries NHLers play through.

Like Finger, Schenn has endured his share of pain.

"Sometimes, you get a shot off the foot and you get bruises, or you get one on the heel or on the inside of the leg and your leg swells up a little bit," Schenn said. "But so far, so good."

The key to surviving an NHL season while hitting and blocking shots at every opportunity, Finger said, is to learn how to do both the proper way -- by using your head, although not literally -- and by adding protective equipment whenever you can.


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