If anything could temporarily take Jason Blake's mind off his health scare, a visit by the New York Islanders might be the perfect medicine, albeit just for one night.
Playing against his former team for the first time since he signed a five-year, $40-million US deal with the Leafs on July 1, Blake likely would love to step on to the Air Canada Centre ice and prove to the Islanders that they made a mistake by not shelling out the cash to retain his services.
Blake declined to talk to the media yesterday, an understandable decision given the seemingly endless number of interviews he has done since announcing Monday he had been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.
His teammates, meanwhile, are aware of how much a victory would mean to the speedy winger.
"It's always (an incentive) when you meet your former team again," frward DarcyTucker said. "We have to play better to get him a win."
Blake was a fixture on Long Island for more than five seasons and still has some good friends on the Islanders, such as goalie Rick DiPietro, who was shocked upon learning of Blake's brush with cancer. DiPietro was tipped off about the situation through a mutual friend two days before the announcement.
"It's unbelievable," DiPietro told Newsday. "You realize that kind of stuff can happen to anybody. It's too bad because he's such a great guy and a great hockey player. You just hope it's treatable, and he can see his kids grow up.
"It's kind of a reality check. When you see a close friend have something like that happen, it makes you stop and think about how lucky you are to be where you are."
Defenceman Chris Campoli planned to call Blake sometime this week.
"He's a good friend, so it's pretty serious," Campoli told Newsday. "It puts it in perspective that we play a game, and without your health, you don't have anything.
"Hopefully, Jason can continue to play at a high level, and I wish him all the best."