Cancer striken Neilson to assist Flyers

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The Independent Online

Roger Neilson, undergoing treatment for bone marrow cancer, will assist the coaching staff of the National Hockey League's Philadelphia Flyers during the playoffs.

Interim coach Craig Ramsay will lead the team in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, general manager Bob Clarke said today after meeting with Neilson at practice.

Clarke and Neilson did not take questions and it was unclear precisely what Neilson will be doing during the playoffs. The Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series begins this week.

The 65-year-old Neilson was the coach when he left the team Feb. 19 to aggressively treat the rare form of bone marrow cancer he was diagnosed with in December.

He wanted to return for the first round of the playoffs, but Clarke and Neilson's doctor determined he wasn't ready. Neilson left for Dallas on April 14 because he felt he was a distraction.

The Flyers, under Ramsay, overcame a 15-point deficit to capture the top seed in the conference, then beat the Buffalo Sabres in five games in the opening round.

Ramsay, who spoke with Neilson on Friday, says he'll be comfortable with any decision management makes.

"I just show up and work, wear whatever hat I have to," Ramsay said.

Neilson was involved in a similar situation earlier in his career.

In 1982, he took over for Vancouver Canucks coach Harry Neale, who was serving a suspension. The Canucks played well under Neilson in the playoffs and Neale agreed to step aside as Neilson led the team to the Stanley Cup finals where they lost to the New York Islanders.