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'Proud' Andrei Markov gets Masterton nod for Canadiens
29 2015 . Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette.

Andrei Markov, the veteran defenceman who came back from two career-threatening injuries, is the Canadiens nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The award is presented annually by the Professional Hockey Writers Association to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Its a special trophy and Im proud to be part of it, Markov said as he took a break from an off-ice workout Sunday in Brossard.

Markov played only 65 games in three seasons from 2009 to 2012 as he dealt with a variety of leg and knee injuries. His misfortune began on the opening night of the 2009-10 season when he collided with Carey Price, whose skate sliced the tendons in Markovs leg. The original prognosis was he would miss four months, but he was back in the lineup in half that time.

A hit from Pittsburghs Matt Cooke knocked him out of the 2010 playoffs and he suffered his most serious injury when his knee was torn up on Nov. 13, 2010. He underwent the first of three knee surgeries on Dec. 8 that year.

Sometimes, I remember the past when I had those issues, Markov said. That was tough for me. Right now, I feel great and try to enjoy every night because you never know whats going to happen. Im happy to stay healthy.

When asked whether he ever thought his career might be over, Markov said he was determined to remain positive.

I knew I could come back, but I didnt know how good I could be, Markov said. Lots of people helped me and I thank them for that.

Markov returned for 13 games in the 2011-12 season and said a stint in the KHL was key to his comeback.

During the lockout, I went to Russia and I started feeling comfortable, Markov said. Those games over there helped me to come back. After the lockout, I came back and I wasnt scared about getting injured. I put all that behind me.

Markov has missed only one game in the past three seasons and has been the Canadiens most consistent defenceman. He turned 36 in December, but says hes not thinking about retirement after signing a three-year contract in the off-season.

I know Im getting older, but physically and mentally I feel good, Markov said. I dont want to think I have two more years on my contract and its going to be done. As long as I enjoy playing hockey, I want to play.

When asked if he made any concessions to age, the hard-working Markov smiled and said: I started practising harder, working harder.

He added: Every year, guys are bigger, stronger, faster and you have to try to keep up and thats what I do.

If Markov is dedicated to hockey, hes also dedicated to Montreal. He was drafted by the Canadiens in the sixth round in 2000 and made his NHL debut a year later. He has played his entire NHL career with the Canadiens and his salary cap hit of $5.75 million has been the same since 2007.

Its the best place to play hockey, Markov said. The passion of the fans and the organization. I never thought about leaving. Its going to be special for the rest of my life.

Markov said he recently shared that special feeling with his 13-year-old son.

My son came to visit me and I brought him to the practice and he sees it all and its special for him, he said. He plays in Russia and, hopefully, he can be a good player in the future.

Each of the 30 NHL teams has a nominee and voting for the Masterton Trophy will be conducted among members of the PHWA. The winner will be introduced at the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas on June 24. Previous Canadiens winners are Claude Provost (1968), Henri Richard (1974), Serge Savard (1979), Saku Koivu (2002) and Max Pacioretty (2012).

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