If there's one thing hockey players are known for, it's perseverance and dedication to their sport. Philadelphia forward Ian Laperriere exemplified that spirit when he returned to the lineup only 32 days after blocking a shot and suffering a brain contusion during last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Although Laperriere would play in only 13 postseason games last season, he became an inspiring storyline for fans and players in Philadelphia.
One of the NHL's special postseason awards, the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, doesn't go to the player who scored the most goals, recorded the most points or was judged to be the most indispensable to his team. Instead, it honors the player who has overcome adversity -- on and/or off the ice -- and in doing so displays that perseverance and dedication to the game.
Last season, Washington goalie Jose Theodore, now with the Minnesota Wild, won the award after dealing with adversity both on and off the ice. The goalie's son, Chace, died during the summer because of complications stemming from his premature birth. Despite dealing with grief, Theodore had one of the best seasons of his career, going 20-0-3 in his final 23 appearances. He also set up a charity, "Saves for Kids," which benefits the NICU unit of the hospital where Chace spent his entire brief life.
Three quarters into the 2010-11 campaign, here's our view of how the Masterton race shapes up:
David Booth, Florida Panthers -- The 26-year-old left wing couldn't catch a break last season. One of the scariest images of 2009-10 was Booth absorbing a crushing open-ice hit from Philadelphia captain Mike Richards in October and being carted off the ice on a stretcher with a concussion that would cost him 45 games and any hope of earning a roster spot on the U.S. Olympic team heading to Vancouver. He'd return to the lineup and suffer a second concussion in March, falling victim to another open-ice hit from Canadiens' defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, officially ending his season.
He seems to be making up for lost time through 59 games in 2010-11, connecting for 17 goals and 31 points while averaging just more than 19 minutes a game. Booth also became just the third player in the past six seasons to take 14 shots in a game in a 4-0 loss to the Bruins on Nov. 18. He leads the team with 205 shots this season -- the 13th highest total in the NHL.
Brent Burns, Minnesota Wild -- Three seasons ago, the Minnesota defenseman was on his way to becoming a breakout star in the League, as he put together career highs of 15 goals and 43 points as a participant in all 82 games. Then a concussion and a shoulder injury requiring surgery cost Burns large chunks of the ensuing two seasons and looked like they might derail his career. In 58 games for the Wild, Burns is first among the team defensemen with 14 goals, including 6 on the power-play and 3 game-winners, and his 35 points rank third overall on the team. The 2011 NHL All-Star participant is also 11th among blueliners in ice time, averaging 24:50 per game.
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins -- One season removed from garnering the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goalie, Thomas rode the bench last spring as Tuukka Rask led the Bruins to within one win of the Eastern Conference Final. He'd undergo hip surgery last May to repair a torn labrum, which ultimately forced him to adopt a one-legged butterfly style. This year, the 36-year-old Thomas has re-established himself as the team's starter with a scintillating 27-8-6 record, 1.99 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and 7 shutouts in 43 games for the Bruins. He also competed in the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater competition during All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, N.C.