Skip to Main Content

Atlantic: Burns' spirit continues to inspire Devils

by Adam Kimelman
The Devils' trip to Tampa Bay last week included a meeting with former coach Pat Burns, who scouts from the team and is based in south Florida.

Burns is suffering from cancer for the third time in five years. He's beaten colon and liver cancer; this time the dreaded disease is in his lungs, and the prognosis is not good. Burns has opted not to go through chemotherapy for a third time.

Burns coached the Devils to the 2003 Stanley Cup, but resigned after the 2004 playoffs, when he first was diagnosed with cancer. He's continued to scout games for the Devils when he's been healthy enough.

GM Lou Lamoriello, assistant coaches Tommy Albelin and John MacLean and several of his former players, including Brian Rolston (who played for Burns in Boston) greeted Burns warmly.

After a stint as an assistant coach for Canada at the 2008 World Championships, it seemed like Burns could return to coaching full-time, but that's when he received his latest diagnosis.

"I'm not bitter," Burns told reporters. "I think the crying's all over and that's all done. We've pretty well done what we had to do. My wife and I have pretty well have gotten everybody ready. There's not a whole lot you can do. I've talked to a lot of different doctors and went to different hospitals. I'm still in contact with the guys at Saint Barnabas (Medical Center, in Livingston, N.J.). They've been great, too. I've been to Dana Farber (Cancer Institute in Boston). I've been every place. But it is what it is. What are you going to do?"

Burns grew up in Montreal and coached the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Bruins, but said the Devils are his team.

"No doubt about it," Burns said. "I think the way Lou has treated everybody on this club. I hear a lot of stories with other teams and I've been on three other teams -- not that they were bad teams, not that I was badly treated, but the Devils have been a classy organization from Day 1 for me and for a lot of people, for a lot of players, a lot of coaches."

Coming back strong -- Rick DiPietro, who will miss the rest of the season to rest his surgically repaired knee, said he plans on coming back strong -- and healthy -- next season.

"That's what I'm banking on," DiPietro told the New York Post. "Mentally, I can't take much more of this."

DiPietro played just five games this season due to the knee issues, and was shut down for good last month.

"I don't see any way I'm not (healthy next season)," DiPietro said. "I'm not giving a definitive answer either way. I don't know what's going to happen. So far so good."

In announcing the end to DiPietro's season, associate team orthopedist Dr. Elliott Hershman said the stress of the netminder's butterfly style could make knee woes a career-long problem.

"A lot of the stress on the knee in hockey goes through the lateral compartment," Hershman said. "I do think that his style of play does put some stress on that part of the knee. ... I think for Ricky this is an area we want to get to heal so that he can play in his style of play. That's why we're being particularly cautious."

DiPietro, though, is positive this long rest and rehabilitation will allow him to play his way and remain healthy through the remaining 12 years on his contract.

"I've seen quite a few doctors who are pretty positive about the future," DiPietro said. "That's the whole point of season -- to make sure I'm 100 percent and ready to fulfill my contract."

Bad omens for Renney? -- While it's certain the Rangers recent stretch of poor play is what led Tom Renney losing his job, there could have been more working against him than anyone realized.

All four teams that played in the 2008 NHL Premiere games in Stockholm and Prague now have changed coaches this season -- Tampa Bay (Barry Melrose), Ottawa (Craig Hartsburg) and Pittsburgh (Michel Therrien) previously had dismissed their coaches.

And then there's the Staal Factor, courtesy of Ira Podell of the Associated Press.

In Carolina, Eric Staal saw coach Peter Laviolette fired, and in Pittsburgh, Jordan Staal watched Therrien get shown the door. Now Marc Staal's coach has been let go.

News and notes -- With 3 goals and 8 points last week, Flyers captain Mike Richards was named the NHL's First Star of the Week. His response? "Sweet." ... Flyers center Danny Briere could play Wednesday against the Kings, but said it's more likely he plays Friday against the Canadiens. It would be his first game since Dec. 2. He's played just once since Nov. 11 following two surgeries to repair abdominal/groin muscle injuries. ... How important is Paul Martin to the Devils? The defenseman leads the team in ice time per game and shorthanded ice time per game, and also plays a major role on the power play. Martin has missed the last four games with a pulled upper-body muscle and the Devils put up a 2-2 mark in those games. Overall, the Devils are 3-6-0 without Martin in the lineup this season. ... Devils forward Brendan Shanahan was forced to sit out two games last week with a sore foot after blocking four shots -- all by Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman. "One at the end of the game caught me in the left ankle," Shanahan told the (Newark) Star-Ledger. "I block a lot of shots, but this (game) was weird. All four shots were from the same player -- Wideman -- and three of them got me in the feet. Shoot it wide, man. He should be called Dennis Right At Me." ... Former Devils radio broadcaster John Hennessy was one of five people hospitalized in serious condition after the Albany River Rats bus crashed after an AHL game against the Lowell Devils, New Jersey's American Hockey League affiliate. Albany is the Hurricanes' affiliate. Hennessy was released from the hospital Saturday ... Riley Cote is among the League leaders with 17 major penalties, mostly through fighting. His wife, Holly, told how Riley practices his pugilistic skills -- Wii Boxing. "He's really, really good at it," she said. "I learned a lot just by watching him." ... Could the Islanders move and still be called the New York Islanders? If a New York congressman has his way, yes. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner recently said on WFAN Radio he would like to see the Islanders join the NBA's New Jersey Nets in their attempt to build an arena in Brooklyn. Weiner is an avid hockey player and a possible 2010 candidate for mayor of New York City. ... The Islanders will be without top penalty killer Richard Park for about a month due to broken ribs. Newsday reported Park had been playing with a broken finger, but he was too important on faceoffs to leave the lineup. ... Crosby poses with the Stanley Cup -- but it's not Sidney. Taylor Crosby, Sid's 12-year-old sister, sent her brother a picture of her with the Cup following a game at the Quebec International Pee-Wee Tournament. Taylor is a goaltender for the boys' AA Cole Harbour Wings, and she played the second half of a 10-0 loss against the AAA Junior Penguins. She allowed a goal to Austin Lemieux, son of Pens owner Mario Lemieux. ... The Penguins entered the week last in the League at 27.5 shots per game, and the combined shot totals of Evgeni Malkin (218) and Sidney Crosby (180) barely is more than the 383 of Washington's Alexander Ovechkin.

Contact Adam Kimelman at
View More