Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov, left, is congratulated by defenceman Raphael Diaz after scoring.
Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The Gazette
MONTREAL - If there's anyone who knows the long road back from an injury it's Canadiens' defenceman Andrei Markov.
He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee twice and underwent two ACL reconstructions, missing most of the past two seasons.
Markov has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy awarded annually to an NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game.
He was selected as the nominee from the Canadiens in a vote by the Montreal chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. The Masterton trophy winner will be chosen at the end of the regular season by a vote of PHWA members.
"I'm just happy to play the game," Markov, 34, said about the nomination after the Canadiens' practice on Monday.
"Every time I step on the ice it's a great feeling ... I have a big list of the people who helped me over the past two years and thanks to them, too."
Markov has played in all of the Canadiens' 45 games to date this season and has the highest average ice time — 24:18 — among the team's defencemen. A key fixture on the Habs' power play, Markov got off to a strong start but has struggled defensively of late — his plus/minus differential is -12 — as has the team, which is mired in a late-season slump. His 27 points — nine goals and 18 assists — is the fourth highest on the team. He is also tied for fifth in points among NHL defencemen.
"When you talk about perseverance Andrei is proof of it," said Coach Michel Therrien, who noted the veteran defenceman is an important player on the team who they've used a lot.
While every game hasn't gone as he'd like, Markov said he tries to play his best and enjoy every game. "I'm happy I'm healthy right now and I still have room to improve and I'm going to work on that in the future."
There were bad days and good ones when he was injured but Markov said he tried to stay positive every day, look forward and concentrate on his rehab.
It's "tough to say" Markov said about whether he finds his skating like it was before he was injured. "I don't feel any issue right now on the ice. I feel comfortable when I'm skating. But at the same time you always have room to improve and that's what I'm looking for, to improve my game, to improve who I am and just looking forward."
Masterton played for the Minnesota North Stars. He died two days after being injured in a game in 1968 when his head struck the ice.
Five Canadiens have won the trophy named after him since its inception that year — more winners than from any other NHL team.
Former Canadiens captain Saku Koivu earned the honour in 2002 after his remarkable return to play near the end of the regular season after undergoing chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Max Pacioretty won the trophy last year after an impressive comeback season in which he led the Canadiens in points. In a scary, controversial incident the previous season, Pacioretty was knocked unconscious when his head hit the stanchion near the Boston Bruins' bench as he was checked by defenceman Zdeno Chara.
The other Canadiens to win the Masterton are Serge Savard, Henri Richard and the late Claude Provost.
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