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Senators assistant Reeds dies after battle with cancer

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Ottawa Senators assistant coach Mark Reeds, 55, died Tuesday because of cancer.

"It is with very heavy hearts that all of us within the Senators family remember Mark, who was truly a wonderful father, husband, player, coach and friend," Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told the Senators website. "Mark's charismatic fighting spirit was present right until the end. We are all better for having had the opportunity to work so closely with Mark, whose passion for life, hockey and his family will leave an indelible mark on our organization. The entire Ottawa Senators organization sends its deepest condolences to the Reeds family."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, "As a player, a coach and a mentor for so many players, from teenagers in junior hockey to the best players in the world at the National Hockey League level, Mark Reeds was the embodiment of commitment to our game. Mark devoted 35 years to 10 different stops in six different leagues and the NHL shares the sorrow of all who were touched by his selflessness and dedication."

Reeds was not with the Senators on Saturday in Philadelphia when they defeated the Flyers 3-1 to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but coach Dave Cameron mentioned Reeds before taking questions from the media after the game.

"Before we get started, there's someone missing from this group," Cameron said Saturday. "Mark Reeds was a huge, huge part of our success. He's not able to be with us. He's in a battle right now. This hockey club wouldn't be where it is without Mark's contribution. We miss him dearly. … He's a big part of this, right from the get-go."

The Senators play Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, NHLN-US, TVA Sports).

"This is a day you hope never comes," Senators captain Erik Karlsson said. "All we can do is play as hard as we can and as hard as we have. That's what [Reeds] wanted for us. He's been with us for a long time and he's a big part of why we are where we are right now. I can personally say I'm a better hockey player because of him. I have a lot of respect for him. He was a great coach and an even better guy and friend."

Reeds was in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Senators, first under coach Paul MacLean.

"The game of hockey lost a great coach and teacher of the game in Mark Reeds," MacLean told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "Mark always found a way to help his team have success yet rarely got the credit for it. He deserves to get some credit for being good to the game of hockey today."

Senators general manager Bryan Murray said, "We lost a good man today. He was a very important member of our coaching staff and of our Senators family. It's supposed to be an exciting time for us and it will be, but today is very difficult for all of us who were in contact with Mark on a regular basis and worked with him and realized what a good, young man he was. He certainly passed too early."

Murray, 72, is fighting his own battle with colon cancer that he said has spread to his liver and lungs and has no cure.

"It's about Mark today," Murray said. "It's hard. You see this, a guy that was diagnosed just before me. He certainly didn't appear to have a situation where death would come this quickly. It seemed to me we were all very positive; he was very positive when he found out there was a solution to his problem. Unfortunately it didn't work that way.

"I guess we all realize every day is very precious to each one of us so we should value it accordingly."

Prior to joining the Senators, Reeds spent four seasons as coach of the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League. In 2011 he led Owen Sound to the Memorial Cup tournament and won the Matt Leyden Trophy as OHL Coach of the Year. He also had coaching experience at the minor-league level as well.

Reeds spent parts of eight seasons in the NHL, playing 365 games with the St. Louis Blues and Hartford Whalers; he also played in 53 Stanley Cup Playoff games, all with the Blues. He was a fifth-round pick (No. 86) of the Blues in the 1979 NHL Draft.

"The St. Louis Blues along with our Alumni organization are deeply saddened by the passing of Mark Reeds," the team said in a statement. "Mark was an inspirational father, husband, player, coach and contributor to the St. Louis community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Mary, son Kyle, daughter Kelsey and the entire Reeds family, as well as to all of his former colleagues and teammates."

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