When is the earliest in a season a player has run away with the Bill Masterton Trophy? Because Pascal Dupuis is making a strong case for the honor and the puck hasn’t even dropped to begin the new campaign.
Dupuis, 36, missed all but 16 games this past season after potentially career-threatening blood clots were found in his lungs in November 2014. When the clots were first found, a press conference was held with the Penguins medical staff, at which point it was said Dupuis would be out of the lineup and unable to play hockey for at least six months.
And though Dupuis had been on the ice since the injury, he returned to what resembled a practice Monday. Along with Dupuis were several Penguins teammates, including Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Ian Cole and Marc-Andre Fleury, and it was one of the first times since November Dupuis was allowed to participate in a skate alongside teammates.
"Being on the ice with teammates, and being allowed more than myself and the trainer here in Pittsburgh, it's a first in basically 10 months," Dupuis told the Penguins website Monday. "It felt great to be out there.”
When the clots were found in Dupuis, the original diagnosis called for a blood thinner treatment, which was a big reason why the Penguins winger had to stay away from the rink. Any serious laceration could have proven very troublesome, so his absence from the rink was a precautionary measure.
“The treatment is at least six months of blood thinners, during which time he will not be able to play hockey,” said Dr. Dharmesh Vyas in a release at the time. “Other than that, his condition is stable.”
Dupuis won’t be coming off the blood thinners, however. In speaking with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jason Mackey, Dupuis said he would now be injecting a blood thinner called Lovenox. Even with the changes he may be making medically, the veteran isn’t concerned about being in game shape.
"I know my conditioning is going to be there,” Dupuis said. “I know my legs are going to be there and my skating is going to be there. It’s a matter of timing for me — a matter of repetitions in every aspect of the game. Obviously, I was told for six months to stay away from everybody — to stay away from boards, to stay away from pucks, not to get hit, not to get cut — and now that I am allowed to, I am forcing myself to get into battles and right in traffic and get in people's way so it becomes second nature again."
After missing a total of 71 games in 2014-15, it sounds like Dupuis is ready to go. And whether or not returns to his 20-goal form, he’ll likely be clearing some room in his trophy case due to his perseverance and dedication to the game, just as the Masterton says.