BOSTON — Shawn Thornton understands how lucky he was. A couple more inches in the wrong direction and his career could have been over.

He also knows a few inches in the other direction and his face wouldn't have been turned into a gruesome tangle of stitches and he'd be in the lineup Thursday against Toronto looking for his 10th goal of the season. That quest will have to wait as Thornton will miss his first game of the season after suffering a nasty cut to his forehead in Tuesday's win over Chicago. 

"I know it could have been worse," Thornton said after Thursday's morning skate. "It could have been better, too. I could have not been kicked in the forehead. But I'm aware that a little bit lower could have been very dangerous, though I try not to dwell too much on that."

Thornton needed over 40 stitches to close the gash above his right eye, but there was no damage to the eye or any other long-term injuries from the incident, which occurred when he fell behind the Bruins' net and was clipped by the back of Fernando Pisani's skate blade.

"I'm very lucky there's no residual effects, no headaches, no nothing, just a big gash in my forehead that looks ugly as hell," Thornton said.

Thornton doesn't expect to need any plastic surgery, just some additional time to let the cut heal, which is why he'll miss at least Thursday's game with the Leafs.

"I feel great," Thornton said. "I'm medically not cleared due to the amount of stitches inside. That's the doctors' call. I guess they want to give it a couple more days. Since we have extra bodies there's no point in risking getting it ripped open.

"It was a mess when I came in, and they made it look as smooth as possible," Thornton added. "Hopefully it heals up. Nothing I can do about it now anyway. No modeling career."

The timing certainly wasn't the best for Thornton. Not only is he running out of time to reach double digits in goals for the first time in his career, but he's also one of primary organizers of next week's Cuts for a Cause. That's an annual charity event that lets fans bid on the opportunity to shave the heads of participating Bruins, with the money raised benefiting the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. The bald dome should really make the new scar stand out when Thornton heads out on the town.

"I'm going scare the kids aren't I? Shaved head, this thing on my forehead, handlebar mustache probably," Thornton said with a smile. "Nobody will come near me."

Considering the size of the cut and amount of blood he lost, it was amazing that Thornton was able to get up and leave the ice on his own power, and even made an attempt to get at the Chicago bench when an unidentified Blackhawk made some classless comments about the injury as he skated by.

"I admire the way he got up and came right to the bench," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "There's no laying around and that's the kind of guy he is. He doesn't want to be known as a soft player. He gets up and he goes right to the bench."

Julien has also been impressed with Thornton's all-around play this season, with the tough guy's nine goals and 18 points already establishing new career highs.

"I think that's what every coach in the league dreams of [having]," Julien said. "If you're going to have a guy who's known to be a tough player and is going to defend his teammates, you also want him to be able to play. It's tough to put guys out there that do that job and you say all I can give him is one or two minutes a game. It really takes somebody’s spot away.

"He's done more than his share of fighting, but more so he's been a real good player for us," Julien added. "He brings energy. He skates well. He forechecks well. He's had some great chances, and again last game just before that incident he missed an unbelievable chance, but he was at the right place. And he's played well for us this year. He's been, not just for what he's known, he's been a really good player."

Thornton participated in Thursday's morning skate with a new helmet fitted with a visor. That's an accessory Thornton will grudgingly have to keep for a while once he does return to the lineup.

"I'm not a big fan of it," Thornton said of the visor, which was affixed to a completely new helmet.

"[Assistant GM Don] Sweeney's going to yell at me for breaking the budget," Thornton joked. "The trainers did a good job of getting it ready to go. They had to cut a bunch of the padding out of the front where my head is swollen, but it was fine. Other than the fact that I've been wearing the same helmet for 12 years and it's a different helmet, it's as comfortable as it could be with this many stitches in my head."

And Thornton is about as lucky as he could be for a guy who needed 40-plus stitches to put his forehead back together.