|Sergei Zubov is working hard again to come back from his second injury in under a year.
WATCH: Zubov highlights
In just his second NHL season, he led the New York Rangers in scoring during the regular season with 89 points and finished the playoffs by helping hoist the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
Two seasons later, he registered 66 points while quarterbacking a Pittsburgh Penguins offense that produced two 60-goal scorers.
In just four years in the League, there was no doubt Sergei Zubov had established himself as one of the elite players at his position. But he still was searching for a permanent home, something the Dallas Stars were all too happy to provide.
Since Zubov put on their uniform for the first time to start the 1996-97 season, he's gone on to play well over 900 regular season and playoff games for the team. He's helped the Stars reach the Stanley Cup Final twice, lifted the Cup for a second time and been a member of three All-Star teams.
It would be an understatement to say Zubov has enjoyed his stay in the Lone Star State.
"The organization and the people in it, including the coaches and the players, have just been great to play with and work with," Zubov told NHL.com. "The city is one of the best around and the fans are very loyal and support us no matter what. I feel very lucky to be playing here and I am glad my career brought me to Texas."
Dallas is closing in on its 10th playoff berth in Zubov's 11 seasons with the team, but the past year has been a challenging one. Zubov has been sidelined since mid-January with a hairline fracture in his foot. A screw was inserted into the foot last month and Zubov is hoping to rejoin the team for the stretch run.
"I have been skating the past few days on my own and once with the team," Zubov said. "It feels pretty good right now. I would love to try and get back for a few regular season games, but I do expect to play sometime again this season."
It's the second time in under a year Zubov finds himself working to come back from an injury. He underwent sports hernia surgery following last season, and his hard work to return to form were a major part of why he was nominated by the Dallas chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association for this year's Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication to hockey.
"It is a great honor to be nominated for the Masterton Trophy," said Zubov. "I know it has to do with dedication and perseverance, and if people believe that about me, then I take that as a compliment. I have so many great teammates who also are dedicated to the game and I am honored to be our team's nominee.
"This past offseason was very hard after I had my surgery, but I worked very hard and was striving to get back for the beginning of the season. It ended up working really well for me and I am glad I was able to get back so quickly."
Zubov collected 35 points in 46 games before the injury, and he's put up as many as 71 points in a season since coming to the Stars. His game hasn't been quite as run-and-gun as when he was playing with Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh, but Zubov has continued to thrive in a more defensive system. He is a plus-152 for his career, plus-107 since coming to Dallas.
Zubov skated alongside All-Star Brian Leetch and veterans like Jeff Beukeboom and Kevin Lowe when he first came up with the Rangers, but said he plays the style that works best for him.
"I don't think I really pattern my game after anybody at all," Zubov said. "I want to be my own player and I want to just play the game that I was made to play."
Today, Zubov is an ideal candidate for a young defenseman to pattern himself after. The veteran said he does what he can to help fellow blueliners like rookie Matt Niskanen acclimate themselves to the NHL game.
"Playing with young guys like Matt Niskanen has really recharged me," Zubov said. "I love being able to talk to them about the game and try to help them with their game. I just hope my advice is good for the young guys like Nisky."
It's hard to fathom Zubov's advice not being useful, just as it's tough to imagine any young defenseman not listening intently when someone of Zubov's stature speaks.
Now Zubov's goal is to be back in action, where Dallas fans have watched him make statements through his play on the ice for more than 11 years.