Blake, Kessel share the pain

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

When Phil Kessel first heard that Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake had been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia last month, he became quite reflective.

The topic of cancer understandably has that effect on him.

Less than a year ago, Kessel, then a rookie with the Boston Bruins, was shockingly diagnosed with testicular cancer. Still just a teenager, his entire world was rocked.

After undergoing surgery, Kessel returned to the Bruins and would go on to win the Masterton Trophy for his perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship to hockey.

"I'm sure (Blake) was shocked, just like I was," Kessel said yesterday. "I really understand what he is going through, believe me.

"I was in a similar situation.You just go through a lot of emotions. It's a really tough time.

"You learn that life is really short and that you have to live life to the fullest. Anything can happen at any time. Believe me, I know."

Blake is still able to play while taking one pill per day to treat his condition.

"I think hockey helps you get through it," Blake said. "It's your job. It's what you love to do.

"You have to put the other stuff behind you and move on. That's difficult, I know, but that is what I have tried to do."

Shuffling the deck

After being scratched for the 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday, Chad Kilger was back in the Leafs' lineup for their game against the Boston Bruins last night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Coach Paul Maurice thought Kilger's game had fallen off a bit heading into the meeting with the Habs, an assessment Kilger did not necessarily agree with.

"(The coaches) watch the game, they deal with the outcome," Kilger said. "The effort is there but sometimes handling the puck comes in spurts."


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