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Leafs forward Jason Blake diagnosed with rare form of leukemia

NHL.com @NHL

TORONTO - Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake has been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

Blake said he got the test results back Friday and broke the news to his teammates on Monday at the Air Canada Centre. He has chronic myelogenous leukemia, a slow-growing cancer of the white blood cells.

The 34-year-old left-winger has already started treatment, is in no immediate danger and shouldn't miss any playing time.

"When you find out that you have something it's definitely shattering to your whole family and so on," an emotional Blake said after practice. "Overall I feel good. I'm still here and my goal this whole season hasn't changed. Obviously you take a step back and you kind of re-evaluate everything but for the most part I feel good.

"I think to get it off my chest and to move forward is a big weight lifted."

The 34-year-old native of Moorhead, Minn., signed a US$20-million, five-year deal with the Leafs in the off-season. The team said that while Blake's on-ice performance is not expected to be affected, he will be monitored closely by both the team's physician and his CML specialist.

"I think the prognosis is outstanding," team doctor Noah Forman said. "He's taking medication which he has already started, it's a daily medication, and it should definitely put the condition under really good control and allow him to continue on with a long and healthy life - as well as his career."

Blake had 40 goals and 29 assists last year with the New York Islanders.

"It's an unusual sentence to hear - the first word is cancer, the next word is leukemia, and then everything should be all right," head coach Paul Maurice said. "I'm not familiar with the condition so it was new that something like this would be as treatable and for such a positive sentence to come after such a negative sentence, it takes a little while to get your head around it."

Blake, who broke into the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings in 1998-99, is a four-time 20-goal scorer. He remains optimistic and upbeat that he will be able to contribute with the Maple Leafs.

"My goal has not changed since I heard this news," Blake said. "And that's come to Toronto, bring another piece of the puzzle and hopefully win a Stanley Cup here."

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