LAS VEGAS, Nev. - For Max Pacioretty, there is almost no escaping "The Hit."
Even 15 months after the Montreal Canadiens forward had his neck broken after being driven into a stanchion by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, Pacioretty still finds himself fielding questions on the subject.
"It's kind of like a bad moment in my life that I want to get over, but I just seem to not be able to do it," he said Tuesday, one day before the NHL's awards show at the Wynn Las Vegas.
At least they've finally taken on a more positive feel. Pacioretty is one of three finalists for the Masterton Trophy, which honours "perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
The 23-year-old had a career season with 33 goals and 65 points after missing the last month of 2010-11 because of the injuries he sustained in the Chara incident.
The two men have crossed paths repeatedly over the ensuing 15 months and will do so again here in Las Vegas with Chara up for the Norris Trophy. As far as Pacioretty is concerned, it's water under the bridge.
"I have talked to him," said Pacioretty. "Hockey's a fast game and I've made mistakes. He admitted he made a mistake, so obviously there's no grudge from my point of view and my end."
The incident had a lasting impact on the game. Prior to this season, the NHL mandated that all arenas install a curved piece of glass on stanchions between the benches ??? designed to bounce players back into play ??? and it also helped push the league to take measures against head hits.
"A lot of positives have come out of it and I'm thankful for that," said Pacioretty.
As for his personal recovery, the incident has left no lasting effects.
Pacioretty believes that having all last summer to recover helped him prepare for what would become a career year. It was during an informal scrimmage prior to training camp where he received the first indication that his neck had properly healed.
"I remember running into somebody and I hit my head pretty good and I twisted my neck," said Pacioretty. "I remember my neck cracking from the top of my head to the middle of my back. I got up and was pretty relieved that I didn't feel anything too severe.
"It helped my head a lot."
Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul are also nominated for the Masterton Trophy.
Even though the trip to Las Vegas forced Pacioretty to briefly reflect on a time in his life he'd just as soon forget, he was in good spirits as he spoke to reporters on Tuesday afternoon. More than ever, his focus is on the future.
"It's nice to know that I've overcome that," said Pacioretty. "It is in my past and I want to keep it in my past and move forward and focus on being a better player."