Canes’ Dan Ellis nominated for NHL’s Masterton Trophy

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 18, 2013 

— Carolina Hurricanes goalie Dan Ellis keeps getting knocked down by injuries, only to get back up.

Last season, while playing for the Anaheim Ducks, he tried to play through a groin injury, only to suffer a severe muscle tear. He had abdominal surgery. He had surgery for a sports hernia.

“It put a lot of question marks around my health and my ability to be able to play again,” Ellis said. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I could play myself.”

An unrestricted free agent after the season, Ellis found himself without a team before the 2012-2013 season and wondered if his career might be at an end at 32. He was determined it wouldn’t be, a big reason he’s the Hurricanes’ nominee for the 2013 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy is awarded each season to the NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Team nominees are made by the local chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

“It’s always an honor when you can get grouped into a category with people who have gone through adversity and met their challenge and found a way to get back and battle through it,” Ellis said this week. “I think any time you can get lumped into a group of people of character and hard work and determination, it’s always an honor and something you can take great pride in.”

Ellis did find a team that wanted him – the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. He was given a professional tryout by the Checkers, playing alongside goalies Justin Peters, John Muse and Rob Madore in training camp.

Ellis won a roster spot, received an AHL contract and split games in net with Peters, going 8-7-2 with a 2.46 goals-against average and two shutouts in 18 games with the Checkers. When the NHL lockout ended in January, he won a spot with the Canes as Cam Ward’s backup.

“It was tough not getting any (NHL) offers in the summer but going to Charlotte was a blessing in disguise,” he said. “It’s a great organization and they gave me the opportunity to play some games. Then I got a great chance to come here (with the Canes).”

Ellis is 4-8-1 with the Canes, with a 3.19 GAA. He won his first start, stopping 40 of 41 shots against Buffalo, then earned his 13th career shutout by beating the Ottawa Senators 1-0 with 33 saves on Feb. 1 at PNC Arena.

“He started the season in a No. 2 situation and played well and did his job as a backup goalie and won hockey games for us,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said.

Ellis was to have started the March 3 game at Florida, only to come down with the flu. Ward started but suffered a third-degree knee sprain during the game, sidelining him for the season and putting more pressure on Ellis and Peters.

Ellis cut himself with a skate late in a March 21 game against New Jersey, missing three games. A sore right knee also caused him to miss a scheduled start against Pittsburgh last week.

“The season was going well until I kicked myself,” he said, smiling. “It’s another injury that I just have to work my way through.”

Defenseman Jay Harrison was the Canes’ Masterton nominee last season. The award was given to Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.

Chip Alexander

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