Hard-hit Senators take 'Hockey Fights Cancer' personally
While the NHL holds its annual monthlong ''Hockey Fights Cancer'' campaign, the Ottawa Senators are a reminder the fight doesn't stop.
The Senators have been particularly hard hit by the disease. Assistant coach Mark Reeds died last year at 55, former general manager Bryan Murray is fighting terminal colon cancer and public address announcer ''Stuntman'' Stu Schwartz has battled leukemia. Recently, goaltender Craig Anderson's wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with cancer.
''It's been a rough few years for us, and a lot of things have happened to a lot of people that we are very close to,'' captain Erik Karlsson said. ''It's one of those things that we've been unfortunate to have to deal with. But I think that the organization - the management, the coaches and all the players - has handled it as good as possible.''
While there's no good way to deal with this, Murray made it a point with his announcement two years ago that even though cancer would end his life, he was determined to save others. Murray, now 73, crusaded for men to get colonoscopies and relayed phone calls he got from several former players who listened to that plea.
Anderson has remained more private about his wife's battle. On the ice, he has been Ottawa's best player since returning from a leave of absence to be with Nicholle, going 4-2-1 with a 1.54 goals-against average and .955 save percentage.
''There was an initial shock. It was emotional for everybody,'' coach Guy Boucher said. ''But to be honest with you, right now it's every day a normal day. He wants to be all about hockey when he comes to the rink, and that's how we leave it.''
The Senators have, for the most part, done a good job of limiting shots on Anderson, a recipe to help him play like the elite starter they believe he is. Defense, not scoring, has to be the hallmark of Ottawa's game.
''We want to make his game a normal game, not a game where he has to every game live with 35 shots and above,'' Boucher said. ''That really wears out a goaltender, and we certainly don't want to have that.''
Off the ice, teammates are rallying around the Andersons by going about their daily jobs.
''He's here, his wife wants him to be here,'' forward Mark Stone said. ''We're taking it normal, and we're just trying to play and win hockey games.''
OLYMPICS DECISION LOOMING
Officials from the NHL, NHL Players Association, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee are meeting Wednesday in New York to discuss participation in the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The primary issue is paying for NHL players' travel, accommodations and insurance, which has been the IOC's responsibility for the past five Olympics but something it has said it won't do this time.
''For us I think that's the big problem,'' American-born center Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks said in September. ''We got guys going over there and the NHL's stalling the season to go over and play in the Olympics. We don't see any revenue from that or anything, so I think the least that they can do is pay for our insurance.''
IIHF president Rene Fasel volunteered to pay those costs, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman argued it would take away from grassroots programs around the world. Bettman would like a decision by January.
A 2-1 overtime victory over the Capitals on Tuesday night was the Blue Jackets' sixth in eight games. Columbus has scored 33 goals in eight games, so add some more powder to the cannon.
The Capitals have lost three of four, and six-time Maurice ''Rocket'' Richard Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin has no points in four games, a rarity given his consistent production. He played a season-low 14:12 in Washington's OT loss at Columbus.
Goals, Patrik Laine (Winnipeg), 12; Points, Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg) and Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay) 21; Time on ice, Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg), 28.30; Save percentage, Carey Price (Montreal), 0.948; Goals-against average, Tuukka Rask (Boston), 1.54.
GAME OF THE WEEK
The red-hot New York Rangers visit the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night. Additions Mika Zibanejad, Michael Grabner and Jimmy Vesey make New York much stronger than it was during a first-round loss to Pittsburgh last spring.
AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno