NHL

Nicholle Anderson joins NHL’s ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ efforts

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When Nicholle Anderson was diagnosed with cancer, her teaching background kicked in.

”I just wanted to educate people,” she said. ”That’s the teacher in me, so I was never shy to open up about it.”

The wife of Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson began blogging about it not long after being diagnosed last fall with late-stage nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Nicholle is now cancer-free and after serving as an inspiration to Craig and the Senators last season, she wants to share her experience with others as the NHL and NHL Players’ Association’s latest ”Hockey Fights Cancer” ambassador.

”What it’s done to my life in the last year, if I can take this opportunity and educate everybody about it, I’m going to do it,” Nicholle said by phone Tuesday. ”It’s going to be a little emotional for me, too. I understand that. But the next few weeks I feel like I’m doing good.”

As her husband noted when winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy last summer for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, Nicholle doesn’t crave the limelight. But after starting cancer treatments and meeting patients afraid to talk about it, she immediately wanted to speak out on the subject.

Nicholle wants people to know that she contracted nasopharyngeal carcinoma from the virus that causes mono, that only seven in a million people get it and that people who feel something is off in their bodies should get it checked out.

She also wants people to know that even though she beat cancer over a span of seven months and several radiation and chemotherapy treatments, it’s ”brutal” behind closed doors and has an impact on a lot of people.

”I got it, maybe a friend of mine will have it, a family member will have it,” Nicholle said. ”Cancer’s reality. I feel like we all need to be proactive here and raise money not just for research but to help everybody because in the long run, everybody’s getting cancer, so it affects everybody.”

The Senators let Craig take time away from the team to be with his family after Nicholle’s diagnosis. The couple have two sons, Jake and Levi. When Craig was on the ice, he went 25-11-4 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .926 save percentage to help Ottawa make the playoffs.

”Nicholle’s strength, she was the one that wanted me to go back and play so much, and we had so much support,” Craig said when accepting the Masterton in June. ”Everyone was there for us.”

Long before Nicholle’s diagnosis, the Andersons dedicated time and energy to helping others. Nicholle was heavily involved in Senators’ charity efforts, and Craig opened their home to teammates to have dinner and watch football on Sundays.

”Just two tremendous people, really giving, caring – great human beings,” said former Senators forward Alex Chiasson, who spent Thanksgiving 2015 at the Anderson home in Florida. ”They’re great people and obviously the battle that Nicholle had to go through and they had to at the same time as a family, I can’t imagine how hard that would’ve been. I think everything’s going better now. She’s gotten some good treatment. Really glad for that family to hear some positive news.”

Nicholle was given a clean bill of health following a CT scan in May. Another test in August showed she was still OK.

”That’s the only thing you’ve been hoping for,” Chiasson said. ”I think all that is much bigger than the game of hockey.”

Nicholle said ”hockey’s not about me,” and she’d prefer to fly under the radar. But after the way people in hockey rallied around her, she’s eager to give back.

”When the cancer card presents itself, everybody knows the fear of it and everybody came together,” Nicholle said. ”If I can get the message out there in this next month to even encourage people to make sure they’re following up on their own doctor visits and cluing in on their body and saying, ‘OK this isn’t normal, I’ve never had this, I need to get checked,’ then I’m doing the right thing.”

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson