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Marc Staal is Masterton Trophy nominee

Rangers defenseman Marc Staal suffered a concussion when

Rangers defenseman Marc Staal suffered a concussion when his brother, Eric of the Hurricanes shoulder checked him in a game on February 22, 2011. Staal only missed three games, but revealed that he was suffering from post-concussion syndrome in training camp before the 2011-12 season. Staal missed the first three months of the season before returning on January 2. Credit: AP

RALEIGH -- Marc Staal, who hopes to return soon from an injury that damaged his right eye---the second major setback in two years to the former All-Star defenseman---has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The trophy, awarded annually since 1967-68 to the NHL player whobest exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game. The nomination is based on a vote by the New York chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Ryan Callahan finished second in the voting.

"It’s an honor, in that regard, to have people know the work you put in," said Staal, who was on the ice for conditioning drills long after practice ended. "Obviously, I don’t want to be in the situations I’ve been in or was in this year."

Staal, 26, was struck above the eye by a deflected shot against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 5, and has begun practicing with the team wearing a visor, but is still experiencing blurred vision. The Rangers alternate captain has missed the past 25 games. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native, primarily known as a rugged, shutdown defenseman, was off to a very good start this year, with two goals and nine assists in 21 games.

"He’s learning what it is to be a leader, how he handles himself both on and off the ice," coach John Tortorella said today. " I think his personality has grown, since I’ve been here. I think the thing that goes unnoticed with Marc is how competitive he is. He’s kind of a laid-back guy but he’s really turned into a competitor. Before he got hurt, it was probably the best hockey I’ve seen him play since I got here.”

On Feb. 22, 2011, Staal suffered a concussion on a hit from his brother, Eric, a center for the Carolina Hurricanes, and the symptoms kept him sidelined until the Winter Classic against the Flyers on Jan. 2, 2012. Staal then played in 46 games last season, during which he scored two goals and added three assists, and another three goals and three assists in 20 playoff games.

Masterton played for the Minnesota North Stars and died on January 15, 1968, after sustaining an injury during a game. Each PHWA chapter nominates a player from the local team.

Four Rangers have received the trophy: Adam Graves in 2000-01; Anders Hedberg in 1984-85; Rod Gilbert in 1975-76, and Jean Ratelle in 1970-71. Montreal’s Max Pacioretty was selected last season.

New York Sports