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Rangers center Moore’s comeback an unbelievable story

The NHL’s version of the comeback player of the year award, the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, will be presented at today’s NHL Awards show at the Wynn “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

It would be hard to find a player more worthy of the award than New York Rangers center Dominic Moore — who returned to the NHL this season after taking a leave of absence from the league in the spring of 2012 to care for his wife, Katie, after she had been diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer.

Two-and-a-half years after the college sweethearts from Harvard were married, Katie died on Jan. 7, 2013, at the age of 32.

Moore, 33, has since established the Katie Moore Foundation (katiemoore.org) to help those suffering from rare cancers.

“It’s just started out, but it’s been amazing to get the support from so many people already,” Moore said Monday at The Wynn. “It means a lot.”

Resuming his career with the team that drafted him out of Harvard in 2000, Moore scored the goal that sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years — netting the winner in New York’s 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden.

“That was obviously a great feeling to play in such a big game, but when you talk about coming back and being part of the team, that game was rewarding because it was such a team effort,” he said. “When you win 1-0, sure the winning goal is kind of important, but every play mattered.”

As he said he always does, Moore felt Katie’s presence at the game.

“I definitely think she would’ve obviously enjoyed being at those games,” he said. “I’m sure she was looking down with pride, that’s for sure.”

Moore, who had three goals and eight points in the playoffs after scoring six goals and 18 points in the regular season, said he’s grateful to be nominated for the Masterton.

“It’s an award I have a lot of respect for. The attributes the award describes are the things I’ve tried to pride myself on throughout my career,” he said. “Obviously coming back this year, those are things that are important.

“When you miss that much time, there’s no shortcuts. The early months of the season were much harder than I expected. To share the end of the season that we had together with my teammates was very rewarding.”

Moore, who has played for nine NHL teams, was out of the league for 18 months after leaving the San Jose Sharks during the 2012 playoffs shortly after his wife was diagnosed with the incurable disease and had emergency surgery.

Sharks forward Brent Burns stayed in touch with Moore, his close friend and former teammate, throughout the ordeal.

“To be honest, I don’t really know how you deal with it,” Burns said. “He’s a pretty special guy, the way he’s handled everything.

“He’s such a caring guy, everyone knows about his intelligence, and he’s just one of those perfect professional guys. His story’s unbelievable.”

Burns is nominated for the NHL’s Foundation Player Award for community service. He has donated more than $1 million to Defending the Blue Line, which provides children of military families the chance to play hockey, and shaved his trademark long hair and beard last year to raise $24,000 for DTBL and the Katie Moore Foundation.

“He’s somebody (my wife and I) really care for,” Burns said of Moore. “For us, it was a simple thing. I just had to shave my head.”

Burns said it was painful to watch the playoffs after San Jose blew a 3-0 series lead to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference quarterfinals. But he was happy to hear about Moore’s big goal for the Rangers.

“It’s hard for us to watch that, but you’re cheering for certain guys and he was definitely a guy I was cheering for,” he said.

New Jersey Devils right wing Jaromir Jagr, 42, and Carolina Hurricanes center Manny Malhotra, 34, are the other Masterton nominees.

Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who led the NHL in scoring this season with 104 points, is expected to win his second Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player. The other Hart finalists are Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf (87 points) and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux (86 points).

Kings center Anze Kopitar is a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded to the best defensive forward. Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown is nominated for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, and Kings general manager Dean Lombardi is a finalist for GM of the year.

■ NOTES — The show, which will be broadcast live at 4 p.m. from the Wynn’s Encore Theater on NBCSP (Cox Cable Channel 38), is sold out. … The public is invited to view the red carpet arrivals starting at 2 p.m. at the Encore Esplanade at XS Nightclub.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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