The puck certainly has been finding Brenden Morrow
Unfortunately for the Dallas Stars captain, it's often been finding his face.
Morrow broke his nose during the front end of a home-and-home set with San Jose on Dec. 13, but returned to finish the game. He had surgery two days later and played in the back end of the series with the Sharks on Dec. 16.
If that wasn't enough of a display of the grit and toughness that have characterized Morrow's 11-season NHL career, a play in the Stars' Jan. 5 game against the Blackhawks in Chicago hammered it home further.
A hooking penalty to Tomas Kopecky two minutes into the game put Dallas on the power play. Matt Niskanen's drive from the point was stopped by Chicago goalie Corey Crawford and Loui Eriksson proceeded to chip the rebound ... right into Morrow's face. The puck got him in the chin and dropped back down to the ice, where Morrow had the presence of mind to swat it past Crawford and into the net for the game's first goal in what became a 4-2 win by the Stars.
"I think since he broke his nose, I think he got mad," said teammate Mike Ribeiro, joking about a recent stretch in which Morrow scored 4 goals in three games. "He's just around the net. That's where he scores his goals, and again today, it hit him in the face and he got the rebound. He's been strong around the net and has some big goals for us."
Ironically, it was the first game Morrow was playing after downgrading from the full face shield he had been wearing after breaking his nose to the typical half-visor many players wear. Moments after scoring, he added an assist on another power-play goal by Ribeiro.
"It was a big character win for us on the road," Morrow said. "It does feel good. These have been big character games for us, giving ourselves a chance to win and playing well."
Morrow has 17 goals and 29 points this season for a Dallas team that is 25-13-5 and leading the Pacific Division. He's on pace to challenge the career-high 32 goals he scored during the 2007-08 season, which happens to be the last time the Stars qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Even when Morrow's not putting the puck in the net, though, the intangibles he possesses make him invaluable to coach Marc Crawford.
"He just continues to impress with his character and his leadership," Crawford said last month. "That's leadership in a nutshell right there."
To Morrow, scoring a goal off a puck that just struck him in the chin is no big deal, nor is playing three days after another disc of frozen rubber breaks your nose and one day following surgery to repair the damage.
"It's what we do," Morrow said. "I may not have felt great if it was that day, but I had a day of rest and it wasn't that bad."