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LAS VEGAS -- Is this the year someone breaks Pavel Datsyuk's death grip on the Frank J. Selke Trophy? The top Detroit center, long considered the best two-way forward in the game, has won the award the past three years and is again nominated.
The argument against Datsyuk is he was injured and played only 56 games, but he could become the first player to win the award four straight times since Bob Gainey (1978-81).
Datsyuk's competition: Vancouver's Ryan Kesler and Chicago's Jonathan Toews.
Look for Kesler, a finalist the past three years, to finally pry the hardware away from Datsyuk.
Kesler was a key component of a Vancouver Canucks team that was the best defensive squad in the NHL. He blocked more shots than any other NHL forward and took key faceoffs and delivered 124 hits. Kesler was just 33 points behind Datsyuk in last season's voting.
This is the first Selke nomination for Toews. The Blackhawks captain acknowledged he would like to best Kesler, who he has battled against in three straight postseasons now.
"I think at the end of the day, whatever happens tomorrow, if Ryan walks away with the trophy, you got to respect him for that," Toews said. "He's earned his right to be there with the season he's had this year. He's a big part of that team that went to the final. But again, you always want to just give yourself credit and kind of appreciate the moment, knowing what it takes to get here.
"Sometimes outsiders, the media, the people watching, always kind of measure what you do in a series based on goals and assists, shots on net, all those types of stats," he added. "But half the time, basically, what it comes down to is what you're doing against the player you're matched up against every shift."
|Canucks forward Daniel Sedin led all players with 104 points this past season.|
It is always interesting to see how the Hart Trophy voting (conducted by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association) varies from the players' MVP voting reflected in the Ted Lindsay Award.
A year ago, Henrik Sedin won the Hart Trophy, while Washington captain Alex Ovechkin captured his third straight players' MVP honor.
This year, Daniel Sedin and Corey Perry are nominated for both awards, while Lightning teammates Martin St. Louis (Hart) and Steven Stamkos (Lindsay) split nods.
Daniel's prime challenge for the Hart looks to come from Perry, who surged through the last third of the regular season to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals (50). The Anaheim sniper scored 19 times in his final 16 games to help the Ducks qualify for the playoffs after a dreadful start to the regular season.
"I think it was one of those things where you get on a roll and things just go your way," Perry said of his torrid finish. "You can't go out and plan on doing that. You just go out and do your thing, and it was a quite a good roll that happened in the last month and a half. It was fun."
The same player has won both the Hart and Lindsay five times in the past 10 years.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma is the favorite to win the Jack Adams Award given his stellar work in guiding the Penguins to the playoffs despite the long-term absences of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
He is chomping at the bit to get a healthy lineup back in the fold next season and take another run at a Stanley Cup. One piece he may have in his puzzle is five-time scoring champ Jaromir Jagr, who has targeted a small number of teams for a potential return to the NHL after spending time in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Pittsburgh, Detroit and another team appear to be interested in the Czech star's services.
"Hypothetically, you're talking about a guy who in his last year in the National Hockey League had 75 points, that's leading our team last year," Bylsma said. "That's an intriguing thing to think about -- a power-play guy, what you saw him do in the World Championship against NHL-caliber players was nothing short of outstanding.
"Those are intriguing things to think about hypothetically and it's tough not to think about adding 75 points to your roster if that's something you're capable of doing," he said.
There are reports Detroit coach Mike Babcock has spoken to Jagr. Has Bylsma?
"I've talked to Mike, not to Jaromir," Bylsma said with a laugh.
Regardless of how Daniel and Henrik Sedin finished out the playoffs (they were a combined minus-20 in the postseason for Vancouver), they remain two of the league's stand-up guys, accepting much of the blame for the team's disappointing turn in the Cup finals against Boston.
In Vegas, the twin brothers can make history if Daniel follows in Henrik's footsteps and wins the Hart Trophy as regular season MVP. He already matched his brother's scoring title from last season by leading all NHLers with 104 points this season. No brothers have ever each won the Hart, let alone in back-to-back years.
Daniel wasn't on hand last year for his brother's big moment in the Vegas sun, and Henrik was nowhere to be seen Tuesday (he was vacationing in Whistler, B.C.)
One of the great stories of the awards is the emergence of Calder Trophy candidate Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders. The 23-year-old was waived by the Florida Panthers on the eve of the regular season and claimed by the Islanders. Grabner went on to lead the Islanders and all rookies with 34 goals. He also had his first child this season.
Although he doesn't have the profile of his fellow nominees, Logan Couture of San Jose and Jeff Skinner from Carolina, Grabner's story is nonetheless compelling. He signed a contract extension during the past season and is part of a dynamic young Islanders team that has people thinking playoffs in 2011-12.
As far as the Calder race goes, if Skinner earns the hardware, he would become the youngest player to win it at age 19. Dale Hawerchuk and Bobby Orr were both 19 years, two months old when they were awarded the Calder in 1982 and 1967, respectively.
"It's been fun," Skinner said. "Just going through everything as a kid, just last year looking up to them and watching them on TV and the next year your sort of around them and talk to them. I think that's really cool to meet some of the guys you grew up idolizing and sort of talk to them as normal guys."
These awards mark the first time since the lockout that neither Sidney Crosby nor Ovechkin have been in attendance.
The pair was nominated for rookie of the year in 2006. Since then, at least one of them has been nominated and/or won the Hart Trophy and/or the Ted Lindsay Award.