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Senators get lift from 'great news' for teen with rare disease

Word of successful stem cell transplant for Jonathan Pitre, 16, has players, coach smiling before Game 3 against Penguins

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- Kyle Turris couldn't stop smiling. The grin spread across the face of the Ottawa Senators forward as soon as the name Jonathan Pitre was brought up, as soon as he started talking about the 16-year-old the Senators have followed since fall 2014.

Pitre has epidermolysis bullosa, a rare and painful condition that causes the skin to blister and tear. He got good news Tuesday: His most recent stem cell transplant was successful.

"It was awesome," Turris said. "It's great. It's such great news. Kind of lightens things up and makes everybody smile a lot around here. He's such a great part of our group. To hear the good news, it was great."

Pitre had the stem cell transplant for the second time, on April 13, after the first try had not taken last year. According to the Ottawa Citizen, all of the new white blood cells in Pitre are from the stem cells donated by his mother, Tina Boileau.

That means, according to the Citizen, "his mother's donated stem cells have taken root in bone marrow and have started to produce new blood cells," which will help remake his damaged skin.

"It's a great day today," Senators coach Guy Boucher said to open his press conference ahead of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1. "Big news: Jonathan Pitre's treatments are working well. So I'd like to say 'Hi' to Jonathan and what a great fight you're having, and we're thinking about you."

Pitre, who is from Russell, Ontario, is in Minnesota for the transplant. The Senators visited him while on a trip to play the Minnesota Wild on March 30.

Tweet from @Senators: ���The smile Jonathan had on his face was priceless. No medication could do something like this.���- Tina Boileau, Jonathan Pitre���s Mother pic.twitter.com/LZyRmDd000

Initially, a few players planned to drop by to see Pitre, but the whole team joined in, so many players that they had to meet Pitre in the lobby of his building because they all couldn't fit in the apartment where he was living with his mother.

"We met him, he  was a scout for a day [on Nov. 20, 2014], and just his attitude and his personality, how thoughtful he was, how just persevering he was, it really inspired all of us," Turris said. "It really put things into perspective for us, how lucky we are. The attitude he has, dealing with what he does daily is special."

Pitre was the first Canadian to participate in an ongoing clinical trial at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

 

[RELATED: Complete Senators vs Penguins series coverage]

 

"That's obviously a great, great thing," Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "We're really happy for him. He's someone who's been a part of our team for a number of years now, and again, I think it's a great awareness for everybody, having him come in, being a part of this group, and getting the exposure of the hard time that he's going through.

"Going through what he is right now is something that not a lot of people could do. It makes us forget about the tough test we have ahead here for a little while."

Members of the Senators will be reaching out in the coming days, Turris said, and are looking forward to hearing back from the teenager who has come to mean so much to them.

"One of the best people I've ever met," Turris said. "We're lucky to play a game and have fun playing a game. We're working hard to try and go as far as we can, but what he's done is for his life. There's no comparison."

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