The attributes that have defined the Rangers in this most transformative season are the very same that characterize Dan Girardi.



Dedicated. Hard working. Mature.



So it is entirely fitting that Girardi was named the Rangers’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy by the New York chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association yesterday. Girardi finished ahead of Marc Staal and Ryan Callahan in a vote.



“It means a lot,” Girardi said before Thursday night’s match at the Garden against Original Six rival Detroit. “I’m just pretty excited. It means a lot to be nominated.”



The Masterton is awarded yearly to the “player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” PHWA’s 30 chapters nominate one player from every team. The chapters will then vote for a winner out of the 30 finalists.



The Rangers have had four players win the award: Adam Graves in 2001, Anders Hedberg in 1985, Rod Gilbert in 1976 and Jean Ratelle in 1971.



Girardi has played every game this season for the Rangers. He entered the game ranked fourth in the NHL in average ice time per game (26:28) and fifth overall in total ice time (1,905:54).



“It’s well deserved,” John Tortorella said. “All-Star now, the way he plays, the way he goes about his business, practice, everything about him falls in line. It’s very good for him.”



Anisimov back in lineup



Artem Anisimov returned to the lineup Wednesday night after missing two games with an upper body injury suffered in the second period of last Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh. Anisimov suffered the injury after absorbing a hit from Penguins center Joe Vitale.



Tortorella was emphatic that Anisimov needs to improve his consciousness.



“Artie needs to learn to be ready to take hits. He takes hard hits. He allows himself to be hit at times,” Tortorella said about the center. “We have to make him aware [that] he’s going to be killed one of these days. We show him, we do, but Artie’s Artie.”



Early returns

 

The Rangers are aware they accomplished something special Monday night by clinching a playoff berth. It marks the first time during the Tortorella era the Rangers will not have to go into the last game of the season needing a win to qualify.



While they are understandably proud of their achievement, the team is adamant that a playoff berth is just a first step.



“That’s your goal — to get in. We’re happy we’re in,” Tortorella said. “I just don’t want that being the focus. We have a lot of things to do to try and compete in it. That’s what I’m trying to say. I’m thrilled with how the team has played this year.



“I’m really happy with the progress of the team [and] the road we’re going down. We get our first step done, making the playoffs. Now we need to test ourselves.”

 



Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter
@DenisGorman.