Monday, The Professional Hockey Writers' Association revealed the names of the nominees for the 2009 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy from the five Atlantic Division clubs -- Scott Clemmensen of New Jersey, Mark Streit of the New York Islanders, Blair Betts of the New York Rangers, Mike Knuble of the Philadelphia Flyers and Mark Eaton of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The award was presented by the PHWA to honor the late Bill Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars who exhibited those qualities. Masterton died on Jan. 15, 1968, as a result of an on-ice injury.
The Masterton Trophy will be awarded at the 2009 NHL Awards broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on June 18, 2009. Airing on CBC in Canada and VERSUS in the United States, the 2009 NHL Awards will bring together the League's best players, celebrities and other NHL VIPs in celebration of the season's brightest stars.
New Jersey Devils: Scott Clemmensen -- After rejoining the Devils' organization last summer with the expectation that he would tend goal for the team's AHL affiliate in Lowell, Mass., 32-year-old Scott Clemmensen got an unexpected chance at a No. 1 job on the NHL level in mid-November when Martin Brodeur was injured.
While Brodeur was out for nearly four months, Clemmensen backstopped the Devils by going 25-13-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and two shutouts. He became just the second goaltender in team history (Brodeur is the other) to win 25 games in a season and turned the New Jersey net back over to Brodeur in late February with the Devils in first place in the Atlantic Division.
New York Islanders: Mark Streit -- Undrafted until Montreal selected him as a 26-year-old in the eighth round of the 2004 Entry Draft, Swiss-born Mark Streit's dream of being an every-night NHL defenseman was only just beginning when he broke into the League by playing 48 games for the Canadiens in 2005-06.
Despite exhibiting superior skill at running the point of the power play, Streit was slotted as a swingman at even strength and switched from defense to forward quite often.
Upon signing with the Islanders last summer, Streit found a place where he would be relied upon to be a top-four defenseman while donning an alternate captain's "A." He has responded by ranking among the NHL's top five defensemen in goals, assists, points and power-play goals while logging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game.
New York Rangers: Blair Betts -- Since coming to the team from Calgary on March 6, 2004, 29-year-old center Blair Betts has played through shoulder, facial and foot surgeries to become one of the League's most reliable fourth-line checkers and penalty killers. Through 75 games, Betts has recorded five goals, four assists and 16 penalty minutes. Relentless in his pursuit of the puck and fearless about throwing his body into the path of opposing slap shots, Betts usually is one of the first two forwards sent onto the ice for a Rangers penalty-killing unit that has led the League through much of the season.
Philadelphia Flyers: Mike Knuble -- Mike Knuble, 36, who recently played in his 800th NHL game, is currently the elder statesman of the Flyers. Knuble is a well-respected player in the locker room, as evidenced by his ability to recruit teammates and friends from around the NHL to help with his charity work. In December, Knuble took up a collection from his Flyers teammates to buy coats, clothes and toys for needy children at Christmas. He also has been a spokesman for breast cancer awareness and holds two annual golf outings -- one in the Philadelphia area and one in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., to benefit the Van Andel Institute (an independent research organization focusing on cancer, Parkinson's and cardio-vascular disease research), Flyers' charities and the Comcast-Spectacor Foundation.
Having suffered severe facial injuries from an open-ice collision with Brendan Shanahan midway through the 2006-07 season, Knuble returned to score 29 goals last season and again this year is among Philadelphia's most productive forwards.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Mark Eaton -- The defenseman signed with the Penguins in the summer of 2006 only to miss much of the following two seasons because of significant wrist and knee injuries. This season, he has remained healthy and re-established himself as a pillar of the Penguins defense by blocking more than two shots per game.
The 31-year-old native of Wilmington, Del., is one of many Penguins actively involved in community outreach to programs such as the Make a Wish Foundation and the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.