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Doing it his way

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Canadiens centerman David Desharnais has been named a candidate for the NHL’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

What a difference four months can make. Limited to a single assist in his first 17 games of the 2013-14 season, David Desharnais had plenty of reasons to feel blue. Not only were Montreal fans growing impatient with the centerman’s lack of offensive production, but the Habs’ coaching staff was too, as evidenced by head coach Michel Therrien’s decision to bench Desharnais for two games in the first half in November. However, the plucky Laurier-Station, QC native took the demotion in stride and used the time in the press box as additional motivation.

Since returning to the line-up on November 15 against the Blue Jackets, the fifth-year Hab has been at the top of his game. That same night, he tallied the game-winning shootout goal to lift his team over Columbus to break his scoring drought. Since then, the undrafted 27 year-old has managed 48 points in 57 games, good enough to lead all Canadiens pivots.

Beyond Desharnais’ early-season woes, the shifty number 51 has a consistent track record of generating offense for every professional team he has played on. After scoring 374 points in just 262 games for the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens, the five-foot-seven, 177-pound forward was ignored by all thirty NHL teams at the draft table. Undaunted, Desharnais worked his way up from pro hockey’s bottom rung, putting up 139 points in 90 combined games and leading the Cincinnati Cyclones to a league title in 2007-08, his first and only ECHL season. After three seasons of point-per-game production at the AHL level with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Desharnais cracked the Habs roster for good during the 2010-11 campaign. Averaging .63 points per game in the NHL, the gifted passer has been a key contributor of line mate Max Pacioretty’s two thirty-goal efforts.

Since 1968, the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually by the NHL to “the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” Five Montreal Canadiens players have received the award since its inception: Claude Provost in 1968, Henri Richard in 1974, Serge Savard in 1979, Saku Koivu in 2002 and Max Pacioretty in 2012.

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