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Boyle has leukemia, aiming to play in Devils opener

Veteran forward believes there is 'good plan of attack'

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle has been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia.

"I feel very fortunate and very blessed," Boyle said Tuesday. "We've had a tremendous outpouring of prayers, and if there's anything I can ask it's that that continues. That is something that I've seen firsthand heal cancers and heal situations that are said to be untreatable. For us, we're in a good spot. We think we have a good plan of attack here and I'm looking forward to getting on the ice and playing.

"When that happens, I don't know, but my mindset is on Oct. 7 (the season opener against the Colorado Avalanche). I don't like missing games. If I [play poorly] one night, it's because I [played poorly], not because of any other reason."

The disease, known as CML, is a type of cancer of the bone marrow that is largely treatable with medication. Dr. Michael Farber said Boyle is in the early stages of the disease, which was revealed by blood tests taken Thursday during Boyle's training camp physical.

"We are awaiting further test results that will help guide management and any possible return to play," Farber said.

Boyle, 32, signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Devils on July 1. He had 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 75 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs last season (the Maple Leafs acquired Boyle in a trade with the Lightning on Feb. 27).

Video: Brian Boyle on signing with the Devils

He has 169 points (93 goals, 76 assists) in 624 games for the Maple Leafs, Lightning, New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings, and 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) in 106 Stanley Cup Playoff games in 10 NHL seasons.

"The support I've gotten already, and I haven't played a game yet for the Devils, I'm very, very thankful that I was offered the opportunity to join the team and that I smartly took it," Boyle said. "I have been in great hands."

Boyle said the only indication something was wrong was increased fatigue, which he attributed to a hectic schedule following the trade to Toronto and everyday life with a 2-year-old son and infant daughter.

"Recovery time took a little bit longer," Boyle said. "I wasn't sure really what it is. There were days I felt completely normal. There were days I was a little bit tired and I didn't really put too much into it."

Former NHL forward Jason Blake announced on Oct. 8, 2007, that he had been diagnosed with CML and played in 82 games for the Maple Leafs that season. He received the Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey in 2008, and played four more NHL seasons before retiring in 2012.  

Boyle hopes for a similar success story.

"It [depends] now on however [long] this treatment process takes, but I feel good right now," he said. "I feel as close to normal as you can feel, so I'm looking forward to getting back into it and learning the system of a new team and sinking my teeth into a new season."

Farber said he'd like Boyle to begin treatments relatively quickly.

"We should have all the rest of the data within the next few weeks, if not the next few days, and from there we'd like to begin whatever course we decide almost immediately," Farber said.

One of 13 children, Boyle referenced his father, Artie, who in 1999 was diagnosed with cancer that spread from his kidneys to his lungs and was thought to be terminal before he visited Medjugorje, a religious pilgrimage site in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 2000. A week after his father's return, a scan revealed the cancer was gone and he's been cancer-free since.

"I know that prayer can move mountains," Boyle said, "so everybody who's going to read or hear, listen to this, any kind of support they want and prayers will always be accepted and much appreciated."

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