The Buffalo Sabres travel to
Cancer has hit the Ottawa organization hard with the latest bout being waged by Nicholle Anderson, wife of Senators goalie Craig Anderson. "‘I fight for: Nicholle’ will be a popular placard held high by fans and members of the Senators organization at the Canadian Tire Centre as the Buffalo Sabres visit Saturday," wrote the Ottawa Sun's, Wayne Scanlan of Hockey Fights Cancer night in Ottawa.
Mrs. Anderson, according to Scanlan, was diagnosed with a "still undisclosed form of cancer" over a week ago and began chemotherapy treatments on Thursday. After the diagnosis, and with the team in need, she encouraged her husband to join the team in Edmonton on Sunday while she made her way back to Ottawa from Philadelphia. The Anderson stopped all 37 shots he faced as the Senators responded with a 2-0 shoutout of the red-hot Oilers. Ottawa came through once again two nights later with Anderson leading the team to a 2-1 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes and his wife in attendance. With his Nicholle now undergoing treatment, Anderson was granted a leave from the team and with newly acquired Mike Condon in net, Ottawa blanked the Vancouver Canucks 1-0 on Thursday.
In his piece, Scalan gives a brief history of just how close to home cancer has hit. "
Thirteen years ago, Senators assistant coach Roger Neilson died of two forms of cancer," he wrote. "In April of 2015, the club lost assistant coach Mark Reeds. A year earlier, Reeds had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and then-general manager Bryan Murray with cancer of the bowel. In 2011, former Senators assistant E.J. McGuire died of Leiomyoscarcoma, a rare and deadly form of cancer.
"On it goes."
Sabres GM Tim Murray has a direct link to that brief history as Bryan Murray is his uncle. In November, 2014, not even a year after the younger Murray left the Senators to take his position with the Sabres, Bryan Murray disclosed that he had Stage-4 colon cancer. Tim had been under Bryan's wing in Ottawa and having a family member and mentor hit him really hard. Tim Murray told TSN radio just after Uncle Bryan disclosed the disease that had he known about it earlier then he "wouldn’t have been very anxious to be out the door. I would have been quite content to know I was there as his assistant for as long as he wanted.”
He clarified his statement to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, "I don’t know how it came across," he told Harrington, "but what I was trying to say if I didn’t say it well was if I had known he had Stage 4 cancer when I left, when I was offered this job, I probably would not have taken this job.
“Now, he might have made me take the job anyway, but I would have told him, ‘I’m not leaving.’"
Neilson also had Buffalo connections as he was head coach of the Sabres under GM Scotty Bowman for the 1980-81 season.
As for the hockey portion of the program tonight, the Senators are riding a three-game winning streak and have won four of their last five. Ottawa is second in the division with a 7-3-0 record, four points ahead of the Sabres who are eighth in the division. Although Buffalo defeated Ottawa in their last meeting, the Sabres are 3-6-1 in their last 10 vs. the Sens, 2-7-1 in Ottawa.
On the brighter side, forward Nick Baptiste will be making his hometown debut tonight. The Ottawa native has been up with the Sabres for five games so far this season and has registered his first NHL goal at Vancouver against the Canucks.
And, should recently recalled forward William Carrier hit the ice for the Sabres tonight, he'll be skating in his first NHL game. According to Sabres PR, Carrier played for the Ottawa Senators Minor Midget AAA team (OEMMHL) from 2009-2011. It's the first recall of his career.
Goalie Robin Lehner will be making his third start in Ottawa against his former team. In his first game against the Sens, Lehner stopped 34 of 36 shots as the Sabres came away with a 3-2 win on January 26. Lehner even assisted on Jack Eichel's powerplay goal that tied the game at two in the second period.
In his second game against the Sens at Canadian Tire Center, Lehner and the Sabres dropped a 2-1 decision in the shootout. He allowed one goal on 26 shots in regulation and two goals on two shots in the shootout.
Lehner was drafted by the Senators 46th-overall in the 2009 NHL Draft by then Ottawa AGM, Tim Murray. As Buffalo GM, Murray sent the 21st pick in the 2015 draft to Ottawa for Lehner and forward David Legwand.