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Daniel Winnik 'very fortunate' after injury scare

Capitals forward's right ear 'really chewed up' but intact after blocking shot against Panthers on Thursday

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. - Washington Capitals left wing Daniel Winnik considers himself "very fortunate" he was not seriously injured when he took a shot off his right ear in the third period of a 4-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

Though Capitals coach Barry Trotz initially said Winnik was missing a piece of his ear, Winnik, who will play against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CSN-DC, MSG, NHL.TV) said that was not the case.

"I wouldn't say I lost a piece of it," Winnik said after the Capitals morning skate. "It's really chewed up and, obviously, some scabs and all that, but no visible missing piece."

With the Capitals leading 3-2 and on the penalty kill, Winnik dropped to the ice to block a slap shot by Panthers forward Reilly Smith at the left point. Realizing the puck was headed toward his face, Winnik turned his head at the last instant in a move he called "reactionary on purpose."

"I'm trying to block it and then [Reilly] drags it around me," Winnik said. "Then, when he was kind of past me I had to turn my head or else it could have been a lot worse. If I don't turn my head, then it's probably hitting me in the jaw."

The puck hit Winnik in his helmet and right ear, and split open a cut.

"The puck hit basically half the ear, maybe a little more ear, and helmet," he said. "I was very fortunate it wasn't way worse."

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Trotz said Saturday that Winnik's ear "wasn't as bad" as he said on Thursday and "I didn't really see it before."

"Any time you get hit in the ear with the puck, it's going to get chewed up," Trotz said.

The Capitals trainer used glue to close the cut and Winnik returned to finish the game. He said he had a "stinging, tingling, numbness" in his ear for "five, 10 minutes."

"It was hard to eat after the game as well or even open my mouth," Winnik said. "When [Marcus Johansson] scored, I got up and gave a big 'Yeah!' And I was like, 'Oh.'"

But Winnik said he did not have a headache afterward.

"That was good, too," he said. "That was probably the biggest thing I dodged, is any type of concussion."

Despite his scare, Winnik said he has no intention of wearing a visor now or using the protective earpieces some players wear on their helmets. Winnik is the lone Capitals player to not wear a visor.

"My face has been banged up a lot over the years and I still haven't worn a visor," he said. "I probably broke my nose 15 times or something. I just can't wear it. And the ear pieces, I think you're just used to wearing [a helmet] for so long without it. When you take them out, you're like, 'Why in the [heck] was I wearing an ear piece in the first place?' But, I guess this is an indication of why guys do."

To begin the 2013-14 season, the NHL made visors mandatory for players who did not have at least 25 games of experience in the League. Winnik, 31, has played in 649 NHL regular season games.

Trotz said the Capitals "encourage" their players to wear visors, but "they're on their own on that."

Winnik said his wife, Taylor, is "fine" with him playing without one.

"We both know whenever my playing days are done it's going to take some facial surgery somewhere along the way," he said.

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