|Ryan Shannon, whose role has grown in prominence in the late stages of the season, has been chosen as the Senators' nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).
Not all that long ago, Ryan Shannon wondered whether he had a regular place in the Ottawa Senators lineup.
Then again, there's plenty of time to think if you spend too much of it watching games from the press box. That appeared to be Shannon's lot in life with the Senators as the 2009-10 season rolled along.
Certainly, that hasn't been the case in the current campaign. Shannon has put two previous seasons marred by concussions behind him and carved out a breakout year in Ottawa, posting career highs in goals (11), assists (15), points (26) and games played (77). His role has never been more prominent in a National Hockey League career that includes previous stints with the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks.
For all of that, the 28-year-old native of Darien, Conn., has been chosen by local members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association as the Senators' nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. It is presented annually to the NHL player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
Without question, Shannon will tell you, it has been anything but a straight line to this point.
"There have been tough times," said Shannon, who admitted feeling "honoured" by the Masterton nomination when hearing the news earlier today. "Being a healthy scratch consistently a year ago and then at the beginning of this year ... learning how to stay focused and stay passionate toward your goal is probably the biggest thing. But it's tough when you're playing less minutes.
"I think everybody goes through it. You start to fight yourself and you're saying 'what's going on?' You start to question things and that's probably the worst thing you can do. Just staying confident and poised in your abilities is probably the biggest difference."
Since the NHL trade deadline, when the Senators shipped out a number of veterans and replaced them in the lineup with younger prospects, Shannon has seen his prominence in the lineup grow. Head coach Cory Clouston calls upon the 5-9, 175-pound forward for both power-play and penalty-killing duty, and his ice time often hits 20-plus minutes per night these days.
"Sometimes it's just taking advantage of an opportunity when it's there," said Shannon. "I think that's what the game is all about. You see how careers start to flourish and it's usually because guys get an opportunity because of an injury or a retirement or a trade ... something like that. I tried to take advantage of that and see what happens."
Shannon got a scare last September when he took a crushing hit into the glass from Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jay Rosehill during a pre-season game. Given his concussion history, he was held out of the lineup until clearing the mandatory baseline tests. He's had no further issues in that area since then.
"Concussions are scary," he said in reference to the one he suffered last season. "For me, I didn't really know when I was okay. It took me until the summer — a month away from the rink — to realize I wasn't right. But do I have any regrets? No. I tried to battle through and do everything I possibly could and I feel great now."Around the boards
The numbers at Senators practice today were a lot smaller after forwards Erik Condra
and Roman Wick, along with defencemen Patrick Wiercioch
, David Hale and André Benoit, were re-assigned to the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators. The B-Sens can clinch their first AHL playoff berth since 2005 with a win tonight at home against the Syracuse Crunch. "We're trying to get that club into the playoffs," said Clouston. "So hopefully, they can get a win tonight and that'll wrap it up down there. Then we can focus on the last couple of games up here and keep our guys sharp, then have some success down there in the playoffs" ... Senators centre Jason Spezza
says he's "heard rumblings" he'll probably get an invite to join Team Canad for the 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championship, which begins April 29 in Slovakia. Spezza has done plenty to make his case, racking up 34 points in his last 28 games, including four in Thursday's 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers ... Ottawa closes out the home portion of its schedule Thursday night at Scotiabank Place against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). The season wraps up Saturday in Boston versus the Bruins (1 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).