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#BoyleStrong mural artist wanted to give Devils forward a ‘pick-me-up’

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A few blocks away from Madison Square Garden in New York City there’s a special piece of art honoring a New Jersey Devil.

Walk down to 28th and 7th avenue and you’ll find Tony Capparelli’s mural dedicated to Brian Boyle, who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia last month.

#BoyleStrong mural at 28th & 7, NYC

A post shared by Sean Leahy (@sleahy66) on

The #BoyleStrong mural is part of a larger collection of chalk art that Capparelli, a teacher at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and senior class illustration students have created for their annual “Chalk FIT” event.

Usually only students are involved, but this year Capparelli and two other teachers created pieces.

“I wanted to give a little get-well card for Brian Boyle because I heard about what was going on with him,” Capparelli told PHT on Friday.

The Boyle piece isn’t the first Devils-related art that Capparelli has done. If you’ve watched any Devils game featuring a celebration for a milestone or for a member of the organization, chances are you’ve seen some of his creations. He’s worked with the franchise since 1989, with his first piece the cover of the 1989-90 yearbook featuring goaltender Sean Burke.

Over the years Capparelli has done pieces with the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and other teams and leagues, but most of his stuff has been Devils-related, thanks to a long-time relationship with their former general manager, Lou Lamoriello.

The Boyle mural has received plenty of attention in the media and social media since its completion, which Capparelli said took roughly five hours over the course of a few days in-between classes. The Devils forward has yet to see it in person, but did notice it via Twitter.

The plan is to keep the mural up for a few months, which will likely require some touch ups depending on how the New York autumn and winter treats it.

“Just something in the heart of the city there that would be a pick-me-up,” he said.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Devils fans help singer who forgot words to national anthem (Video)

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The biggest save of the night at Prudential Center on Friday didn’t come from either goaltender, but rather New Jersey Devils fans in attendance for their game against the San Jose Sharks.

Lauralie Mufute began singing the national anthem but midway through forgot the words. That’s when the crowd of 14,381 picked up where the 14-year-old left off and finished the song.

A great job by the crowd in what certainly was a terrifying moment for the young performer.

These flaps happen, as we’ve seen many times before in different situations. It’s always good to know the crowd can act as backup singers in times of need.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Boyle is not alone in fighting cancer and playing hockey

When Phil Kessel got over the initial shock of being diagnosed with cancer and had surgery, he asked doctors, ”When can I play?”

When Jason Blake was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, he had the choice of taking a chemotherapy pill or having a bone marrow transplant that would cause him to miss a full season. He chose the pill and got back on the ice.

After his cancer diagnosis last month, New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle quickly turned his attention to playing hockey again. He will join a group of NHL players who played with cancer or after beating the disease, including Kessel, Blake, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta, former Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.

”This (stuff) rocks your world,” said Blake, who played six more seasons after being diagnosed with CML, the same type of bone marrow cancer Boyle is now fighting. ”It’s tough. I think it doesn’t matter how old you are, who you are. When someone says you have cancer, it definitely turns your world upside down.”

Now 44 and retired, Blake reached out to Boyle last month to offer his support. Blake said if his situation had come up five years earlier, doctors would’ve given him a 50/50 chance of living five to seven more years and is glad Boyle can benefit from even more advanced technology.

Blake said medication ”shocked my system” and made him lose a lot of weight. He still feels tired but was glad to have his Toronto Maple Leafs teammates and hockey to distract him from his battle with cancer when he wasn’t with his wife and three children.

”That’s the one positive or plus that every time I went to the rink, you kind of just forget about it,” Blake said. ”Those are distractions, and those are good distractions in this case. I understand what (Boyle) is going through, but I understand the person that he is, he’s a character guy and I know that he’ll get through this no problem.”

Kessel said Boyle has a great support system from his family, teammates and players around the league.

”Having a positive attitude toward the fight is important,” Kessel said. ”He needs to listen to the professionals and do whatever you can to return to the game.”

Kessel was found to have testicular cancer at age 19 and recently partnered with Cigna on the NHL’s ”Every Save Counts” program to raise awareness and money for cancer research. After noticing a lump and having surgery early in his rookie season in 2006-07, Kessel was back on the ice in 11 days.

”I love the game and I knew that because I was in good shape that this would help me in returning as quickly as I could,” Kessel said. ”I didn’t want to miss any games. I was fortunate that I came back as soon as I did.”

Longtime coach and general manager Bryan Murray, who lost his battle with colon cancer this past summer at age 74, said he wanted early detection to be part of his legacy. Nephew Tim Murray, a former Buffalo Sabres GM, was one of several people around hockey who immediately got a colonoscopy.

Kessel hopes he can have the same effect.

”If partnering with Cigna to share my personal health story can encourage others to get a check-up with their doctor and potentially save a life, that’s a huge win for me,” said Kessel, who has won the Stanley Cup with Maatta for Lemieux’s Penguins each of the past two seasons. ”Being a voice for early detection and regular check-ups will always be my priority.”

Lemieux missed two months after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1993 at age 27 and then took a leave of absence because of fatigue brought on by radiation treatments. Upon his return, ”Super Mario” led the league with 69 goals, 92 assists and 161 points and won the Hart Trophy as MVP.

Koivu missed most of 2001-02 with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, set a new career high with 71 points the next year and played 11 more NHL seasons. Maatta, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2014, returned two weeks after surgery.

”When I found out I had a tumor, it’s scary,” Maatta said. ”It’s a scary word. Every situation’s different. There are different stages, and mine was really harmless and easy to take out. … The more we found out about it, the less scary it was for me. I was lucky with that.”

Lemieux, Kessel, Blake, Koivu and Maatta provide examples for Boyle that he can not only keep playing but at a high level.

”I’m expecting to live my life, to live a normal life,” Boyle said. ”Hopefully the season can go on as normal, as regular as possible. We don’t have to be asking about it all the time. And if I suck one night, it’s because I sucked, not because of any other reason and hopefully if that’s the biggest issue, then that’s a good thing.”

HOCKEY AND POLITICS

Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown on Saturday night became the first hockey player to engage in a national anthem protest when he stood on the bench with his fist raised in the air. Brown said he received death threats and racist remarks on Twitter after his protest but defended his decision to bring light to ”police brutality, racial injustice and inequality” in the U.S.

”I know it may not sit well with everyone, but to truly make change in this world we must be able to be pushed outside of our comfort zone,” Brown said on Twitter. ”I want young minorities to see that what they may be going through is not being ignored by the hockey community.”

The Cup champion Penguins visited President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday, reiterating that it wasn’t about politics. Trump mostly stuck to hockey, and coach Mike Sullivan thought the ceremony went well.

LEADERS (through Tuesday)

Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 7; Assists: Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington), 8; Points: Kuznetsov, 8; Time on ice: Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis), 27:02. Goals-against average: Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus), 0.48; Save percentage: Bobrovsky, .985.

GAME OF THE WEEK

The defending Western Conference champion Nashville Predators on Saturday night visit the Chicago Blackhawks, who they swept in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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Elias not interested in Devils’ captaincy

After serving as the New Jersey Devils captain in the past, veteran forward Patrik Elias isn’t interested the club’s captaincy.

New Jersey is looking for a new captain after Bryce Salvador announced his retirement earlier this month.

“I’ve been in that position before,” Elias told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I think it’s a privilege, no question about it. I would consider it. I’m truly hoping it’s not my last year, but I think there are different guys that would be more suited for that.”

The 39-year-old, who is heading into the final year of his three-year, $16.5 million contract, isn’t completely over being stripped of the ‘C’ on the first day of Devils’ training camp in 2007 under then head coach Brent Sutter.

“It’s just the way it went,” Elias said. “I don’t think it was handled the proper way, not just from Brent Sutter. Not just from him. So, I didn’t want it after that. Maybe in a way, maybe when I had that C, you try to do too much maybe a little bit just because it’s not an easy role. You might not even recognize it, but subconsciously you might worry about things that maybe you shouldn’t. They put you in that role for a reason, because they like what they’ve seen, and you’ve got to keep doing the same things.”

After playing over 1,200 games, all with the Devils, Elias isn’t approaching training camp as if it’s his last in New Jersey.

“I hope not,” he said. “You never know. Whatever happens. If it is, it is. I still like to play, obviously. Time goes by quickly. I enjoy it and as long as I enjoy it, I’m not going to feel like I’m not going to play again.”

Report: Ryane Clowe’s NHL career is over

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For all intents and purposes, it sounds like Ryane Clowe‘s NHL playing days are finished.

That’s the report from the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti, who passes along word from New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero that Clowe “will be unable to play hockey now or in the future.”

Clowe, 32, admits that he’d rather continuing playing for the Devils, yet doctors recommend that he hang up his skates.

Shero told Gulitti that Clowe will go on IR or long-term injured reserve for the remaining three years of his contract, depending upon how his $4.85 million cap hit affects the Devils’ situation.

Clowe’s hard-hitting style helped him earn the five-year, $24.25 million contract the Devils handed him heading into 2013-14, but it ultimately caught up to him.

Concussion issues plagued him almost since day one with the Devils, doing little to silence critics of that deal.

While it’s clear Clowe wanted to try to play, it’s tough to imagine him being a difference-maker without taking physical risks. It’s a shame that Clowe isn’t the one making the call, but it might be the right move.