The last time we saw these two teams on the ice at the same time, they were shaking hands at center ice after the Sharks eeked out a 6-game opening round victory in last spring's playoffs. The knee-jerk reaction would be to joke about how the tables have turned, with the Avs holding the 3rd-best record in the conference and the Sharks holding up the rear with just 3 points. But this is almost exactly how these teams started out last year - the Avs had 9 points in their first 6 games and the Sharks had 4 points in their first 4, so each team is just one point off from where they were last year. In other words, I don't think the standings are going to stay like this all season long.
The Sharks are certainly struggling though, losing their last 3 and with their team holding a combined -39 +/- (Ryan Clowe is the only player with a positive +/-, at +1). The Sharks are relatively healthy, with Jamal Mayers questionable and defenseman Derek Joslin out on IR. The Avalanche are, for the 900th consecutive season, a walking M*A*S*H* unit. Peter Mueller and David Koci are on IR, Brandon Yip is nursing a sore groin (and now I'll take Phrases That Are Uncomfortable To Type for $200, Alex) and David Jones is day-to-day with a bruised arm. Former BU Terrier David Van der Gulik has been recalled to generate curse words from the equipment guy.
Tonight's game is notable because of the After Hours battle between Mile High Hockey and the Avalanche Guild. This epic match-up actually takes place before the game. This skirmish is open too the public - just arrive at the VIP entrance by 4pm (check this thread for more details). You don't need tickets to watch and we promise that no fans will be attacked by Rick Rypien or even Mark Rypien. And if you still need tickets to the game, discounts are still available through the Avalanche Guild link
There is one other great thing about tonight's game, besides the inevitable Avalanche & MHH win - it's the Avs' Hockey Fights Cancer night. A year ago, this would probably not have garnered a mention from me. But five weeks ago today, a close friend of mine finally went to see a doctor after a few weeks of feeling run down, having a lousy appetite and, most worrisome, the appearance of several nasty bruises without any rhyme or reason. Mike went in to have blood work in the morning and was going to see his doctor the following week to go over the results. Instead, they called him back in that evening to tell him he had Leukemia. Although they let him go home that night (with a script for some sleeping pills, to help him cope with the massive bombshell that had just been laid on him), when he followed up with a doctor in the morning his platelet levels were so low that he was admitted immediately and started chemotherapy that afternoon. In less than a 24 hours, Mike had gone from feeling lousy to undergoing treatment for cancer.
It's been a long five weeks. Mike was up at Dartmouth hospital, a great hospital but an hour away from his wife and two kids. For the first two weeks, the biggest challenge was making sure Mike had a steady stream of visitors able to make the hour trek up to keep him entertained; he could move around the hospital a bit, but couldn't go outside due to fear of infection. When we couldn't make it, we sent up cards, letters and other cheer-me-ups (I'm told the picture of me dressed like Cher was a big hit with the nurses). And then he got sicker - he started getting terrible fevers, lost much of his vision and both of those issues were minor compared the the extreme nausea that he lived with every day. He was no longer well enough to have visitors and they moved him to a room where he could get more constant care from the staff. He had been updating us via an online journal, but he got so sick that he couldn't even do that and had to have his wife type for him. It was dismal.
Thankfully, he improved. Quickly, in fact. On Saturday, we got the word that the fevers were gone and he might be heading soon, and yesterday he was discharged! He still has a long road to go; he's home, but will be continuing aggressive chemo as an outpatient for the next few months and then will maintenance chemo for a year or two after that. The good news is that his Leukemia is an acute version and is considered the easiest to treat. Having seen what he's gone through over the last five weeks, that's a sobering thought. While the prognosis for Mike is good, cancer will kill an estimated half a million people this year in the US alone.
I know that Mike's story is by no means unique and that cancer has likely touched the lives of many of you reading today. My intent is not to dampen your day, but to encourage everyone to take proactive steps to either prevent cancer or to provide early detection. Finally, if you are lucky enough to be in a position where you can give a little to a cancer related charity, please consider doing so. As part of the NHL & NHLPA Hockey Fights Cancer initiatives, you are able to donate with your mobile phone:
For the first time ever, fans can now donate to the cause via mobile phone. Starting today, U.S. residents
can text HFC to 90999 to make a $5 U.S. donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Canadian residents can text HFC to 45678 to make a $5 CAD donation to the Canadian chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. A one-time charge of $5 U.S. or CAD will be added to the donor’s mobile phone bill. Message and data rates may apply.
Okay, this concludes are very special after school special message. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Go Avs!