‘It’s been a long road’ — Brian Boyle set to make season debut

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VANCOUVER — Not even two months after his cancer diagnosis, Brian Boyle will make his season debut for the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.

Head coach John Hynes confirmed the good news following the morning skate — on the first day of this month’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative.

“It’s been a long road,” said Boyle, who was diagnosed with Chronic myeloid luekemia at the beginning of Devils training camp in September.

He said he received an “overwhelming” amount of well wishes from throughout the hockey community, and the care people have shown him and his family is one of the positives he has taken from this entire ordeal.

“From the start of it back in September, it was very touching for my family, people reaching out to not only me but my parents, my wife,” he said. “Obviously it’s a situation you don’t want to be in but we’ve got a pretty good handle on it and I’m able to play now.”

It promises to be an emotional night for the 32-year-old Boyle.

The Devils signed him on July 1. It was an addition that gives the club a veteran forward that can play both center and the wing, and perhaps add more secondary scoring. The diagnosis and treatment, however, forced Boyle to ultimately miss the team’s first 10 games of the season.

He returned to practice less than two weeks ago and has received full clearance for what will be his first game since April 23, when he was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs as they faced Washington in the first round of the 2017 playoffs..

“I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m really trying to downplay it,” he said. “Just so I can get some sleep this afternoon. But I’m really excited. Yeah, I could probably take a little sense of accomplishment but the boring answer is I’m really trying to play my best. The team is playing really well and I want to fit in nicely with that.”

With the NHL season advancing into November, the Devils are atop the Metropolitan Division with an 8-2 record and the third-best goals-for average in the entire league. That is, at least so far, a drastic turnaround for this club after struggling to score in recent years.

Boyle will play left wing on a line with Blake Coleman and Miles Wood tonight, said Hynes, adding that the coaching staff will track his minutes and see how Boyle feels throughout the game.

“We’re adding a very good player, we’re adding a guy with a ton of experience,” said Hynes. “We’re really looking forward to having him back in the lineup. It’s been a long road. It’s been a long offseason … with the cancer diagnosis and his recovery from that, so I know he’s really excited to play and we’re excited as a team and an organization to have him back in the lineup.”

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.