Brian Boyle Facing His Toughest Challenge Yet

From a purely medical viewpoint, this has been a devastating offseason for the New Jersey Devils.

First, General Manager Ray Shero learned that his crack center, Travis Zajac, would lose at least a couple of months of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

And now the club has made the heartbreaking revelation that Brian Boyle will be undergoing treatment for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML).

Acquired as a free agent this summer, the 32-year-old Boyle addressed the media about his challenge late Tuesday afternoon via conference call.

“We’re at a good place,” said the big center who sounded calm and confident throughout the phone media scrum. “I feel good right now and I’m told that the treatment has minimal side effects.”

Boyle was accompanied by Dr. Michael Farber, Medical Director of Executive Health at the Hackensack University Medical Center, during the conference call.

“Right now,” said Dr. Farber, who doubles as the Devils’ team internist, “we’re waiting for more (medical) information. We should have all the data in the next few weeks, if not the next few days.”

The symptoms were confirmed by blood work done during the team physicals. Boyle allowed that before his ailment was discovered during the medical tests he had suffered bouts with fatigue.

“I was feeling pretty tired,” he recalled. “We had been traveling between Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston and New Jersey and I figured that all that movement had contributed to it. There was a lot of fatigue.”

Through the media give-and-take, Boyle maintained an optimistic bent. He surprised The Maven when he told me that he expected to return to action at the start of the season.

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“To be honest,” he insisted, “I’m looking to get on the ice Oct. 7 but that remains to be seen and depends on how this treatment works.”

The Devils’ season — and home opener — begins on Oct. 7 when they host the Colorado Avalanche at Prudential Center.

Dr. Farber noted that CML is “treatable” and that “new medications are much better tolerated. Brian came to us in great shape with very few symptoms.”

A popular Ranger for five seasons, Boyle was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to help his new team.

In fact, he revealed that many teammates, rivals and friends, who just recently had learned about his challenging situation, already had reached out to him.

Hockey News columnist Ken Campbell — who had joined the conference call — revealed that ex-Islander and later Maple Leaf, Jason Blake, suffered from the same disease and recovered from it.

“I feel fortunate to already have had such a tremendous outpouring of prayers,” Boyle said. “But my wife and I have had some long nights.”

Prior to training camp, the Devils figured to have a formidable trio of pivots, starting with Zajac, then Adam Henrique and Boyle sharing their load.

The burden now must be shared by Henrique, Pavel Zacha and Marcus Johansson; not to mention top draft pick, rookie Nico Hischier who likely will get a shot at center.

Speaking of his new teammates and new management, Boyle waxed enthusiastically about how well he has been treated since signing on with Shero last July 1.

“Imagine,” he concluded, “I haven’t played a single game for the Devils yet I have had this tremendous support.”

Then, a pause for reflection: “Prayers will always be accepted — and appreciated!”