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Hockey Fights Cancer

Matt Duchene will play with friends in mind

Avalanche center thinking about 6-year-old girl on Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- When the Colorado Avalanche host their Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night on Saturday, center Matt Duchene will have those affected by the disease on his mind.

One person in particular will be Haven Anderson, a 6-year-old girl he met at a Hockey Fights Cancer skate two years ago.

"She's such an amazing little kid, with so much fight and happiness in her," Duchene said of Haven, who, when she was 2 was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer often found in the adrenal glands that typically affects children who are five years old or younger, according to Kidshealth.org. "She's doing good. Everything, I think, is stable right now. I keep in touch with her family quite a bit. It's pretty awesome. I keep her in my prayers every night."

For the game against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; SN, ALT, FS-N. NHL.TV), Pepsi Center will be decked out in lavender, and fans will participate in a lavender glow-stick ceremony involving patients receiving treatment at the UCHealth Anschutz.

"It's heartbreaking," Duchene said. "It puts things in perspective for you, makes you take in the moments a little bit more and to enjoy life a little bit more. You never know what situation you're going to be put into down the road."

The news that Nicholle Anderson, wife of Ottawa Senators and former Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson, has cancer hit Duchene hard.

"My fiancee [Ashley Grossaint] and I got to know her and Andy well when they were here," he said. "We reached out to her, told her that we're praying for her, wished her the best. It's really tough."

Duchene will also take part in a skating clinic Wednesday at Pepsi Center with 40 children from the Rocky Mountain Children's Health Foundation who have been affected by cancer.

"That's where I met Haven a couple years ago," he said. "The strength that that family has is pretty unbelievable, pretty remarkable. My fiancee and I go out and do that. She puts her skates on and pushes kids and plays. Just to see the smiles on their faces ... after spending so much time in the hospital and getting all that treatment, the kids get to go into an NHL arena and have some fun, so it's pretty special.

"You try and give whatever you can. Being involved with these young kids, you try and give back and put a smile on their face. Life's precious, you never know when the sand runs out. If you can help someone in that situation, you have to give back as much as you can."

Duchene helped raise about $20,000 in the spring for CureSearch, a foundation that raises funds and awareness for childhood cancer patients. He put up for auction special CCM skates that he wore when the Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings played Feb. 27 in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Coors Field.

"In the grand scheme of things that's not a huge number," Duchene said, "but it was something I put some effort into and it was nice to see it come to fruition."

During warm-ups for the game against the Wild, Avalanche players will wear lavender jerseys that will be available in an online auction at www.coloradoavalanche.com. Colorado coaches and broadcasters will wear lavender ties and pocket squares.

Kendall Elliott, 57, will drop the puck for a ceremonial faceoff. Elliott was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008 and is receiving treatment at the University of Colorado.

Keegan O'Connell, 10, who plays for the Northern Colorado Eagles, will skate on the ice in honor of his grandfather, who battled cancer for many years, and stand alongside Avalanche players during the national anthem.

Kolton Platt, 6, has been named Av for a Day. He was diagnosed with leukemia nearly a year ago and is being treated at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

Fans will participate in a special lavender glow stick ceremony at the start of the first intermission. Patients receiving treatment at the UCHealth Anschutz campus will be featured on a live feed on the videoboards and will crack their glow sticks in unison as a kickoff to the ceremony.

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