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Hockey Fights Cancer

Cancer hits close to home for Senators

Wife of Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson latest to be diagnosed with disease

by Chris Stevenson / Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night perhaps has more significance to the Ottawa Senators than most other teams in the NHL.

The Senators will host their Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre. This year's event hits close to home after the announcement last week that Nicholle Anderson, the wife of goaltender Craig Anderson, was diagnosed with cancer. 

On Thursday, Anderson was granted his second leave of absence to be with Nicholle. Coach Guy Boucher said Anderson's status is day to day.

With backup Andrew Hammond out indefinitely with a groin injury, Mike Condon was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday for a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Condon had a 27-save shutout in his first game with the Senators, a 1-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

"Whenever [Anderson] can make it, he's playing," Boucher said Friday. "Whenever he can't make it, [Mike] Condon is ready to go. Whenever [Anderson]'s available, he's our No. 1."

Video: Craig Anderson posts shutout in emotional return

The Senators have had more than their share of this type of devastating news. Assistant coach Roger Neilson lost his battle with malignant melanoma and bone marrow cancer in 2003. Senior hockey adviser Bryan Murray continues his battle with Stage 4 colon cancer, which he was diagnosed with in June 2014. Assistant coach Mark Reeds died because of esophageal cancer in 2015.

Senators coach Guy Boucher lost his father, Wilfrid, to cancer when Boucher was 17 years old.

"I think it's a special day especially with what's going on with Craig and his wife and family," Boucher said. "It's dear to us in that respect. That day [Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night] is very specific, also. We're asked to dedicate that game to somebody that's close to us.

"As a team, collectively, as an organization we definitely have Nicholle close to our thoughts. But at the same time, individually, my father passed away from cancer. My wife's father is battling cancer right now. Everybody in some way or another is touched by cancer now, before or will be in the future."

"We've been pretty unfortunate here in this organization to be touched by cancer in the past few years on a number of occasions," defenseman Mark Borowiecki said. "A night like this means a lot to all of us. It has a lot of significance for this team, this group, this organization. Our No. 1 priority is winning games and being a good hockey team, but right up there is taking care of our family."

The Senators will host their ninth Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night in support of the Ottawa Hospital and will have a special opening ceremony with 13-year-old Justin Leblanc of Ottawa, who was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma at age 9. He has gone through chemotherapy treatments and had several surgeries, the most recent in early October.

Video: The crew discusses the support for Craig Anderson

Senators wives and girlfriends and other members of the organization will hand out Hockey Fights Cancer "I Fight For" cards to fans attending the game. Fans can also download an "I Fight For" card here.

Fans are asked to share their "I Fight For" cards via social media using the hashtag #hockeyfightscancer.

Senators forward Ryan Dzingel said he will have the name of his father, Rick, on his "I Fight For" card. Rick Dzingel has been in remission after being diagnosed with throat cancer.

"This month is pretty hard for me," Dzingel said. "It means a lot to me. He's in remission now and goes back every six months for a check-up. I think he's been cancer free for two years now."

Defenseman Dion Phaneuf said he will have the names of Nicholle Anderson, his grandparents, Bryan Murray and Senators public address announcer Stu Schwartz, who has battled leukemia, on his "I Fight For" card.

"It's a disease that's touched our locker room with Andy's wife, Nicholle, this year, but in the past with Bryan and myself personally and my family," Phaneuf said. "It's touched my family. Hockey Fights Cancer is about raising awareness and support, especially this year with what Andy is going through with Nicholle, it's an extra special night."

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