BUFFALO – Having battled cancer in 2005, Sabres coach Don Granato understands what his older brother, Tony, is experiencing right now.
On Sunday, Tony, 59, announced in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would be taking a temporary leave of absence from his job as an analyst with NBC Sports Chicago.
The last three or four weeks, Don Granato said, have been challenging.
“Him and I are extremely close,” he said following Tuesday’s practice in KeyBank Center. “I can tell you there’s not a day that I’ve gone through in my life that I haven’t been grateful in some way, reflected personally on what it’s been like to have a brother three years older than you that’s paved a way for you and taken care of you.”
When Granato underwent treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Tony left his family in Denver – he was coaching the Colorado Avalanche – to help him through chemotherapy.
“When I went through my chemo and treatment, it was extensive, he was there every single day for me,” Don said. “In the chemo lab, I was even telling him you got to go home to your family.”
Granato said dealing with Tony’s diagnosis has been “a lot to take in.”
“You don’t know diagnosis, prognosis, plan,” he said.
He said doctors at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo “have been amazing” and connected the family to the right people for help.
“It feels good to have a plan and to know he has a plan moving forward,” he said. “And it’s tough to be apart, but the ability to communicate is nice, and grateful for all the support that’s come in, really, for him.”
Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who missed three games last week because he was sick, could start tonight’s contest against the Colorado Avalanche, the start of a three-game road trip.
Luukkonen made 23 saves Oct. 29 in a 4-0 home win over Colorado, his first NHL shutout.
In three career games against the heavyweight Avalanche, the Finn has compiled a 2-1-0 record with a 2.34 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.
“We are really ready every time we play them from the start,” Luukkonen said. “We know how good of a team they are so be ready from the start. I think that has showed to my starts at least. I think it’s not only me, it’s the whole team.”
Luukkonen backed up Devon Levi for Monday’s 5-2 home win over the Arizona Coyotes.
Defenseman Erik Johnson, who spent 13 seasons with the Avalanche before signing with the Sabres on July 1, will make his first visit back to Colorado tonight.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “A lot of great memories, great friends, awesome fan base, and a great city that’s now home for me when I’m done playing. Ultimately spent almost a decade and a half there, so quite a big chunk of my life. So it’ll be sweet to go back there.”
Johnson, 35, won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2022.
Prior to fielding questions Tuesday, Granato said former Sabres tough guy Rob Ray, who took a puck to the face Monday while providing color commentary between the benches, “will be making the trip.”
Ray wiped some blood off and kept broadcasting.
Granato joked Ray’s “day to day with an upper-body (injury).”
Notes: Sabres winger Alex Tuch, out the last four games with a hamstring injury, is expected to play tonight. … Granato said defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, who missed Monday’s game with soreness, is day to day. He did not practice Tuesday. … Captain Kyle Okposo and center Tage Thompson sat out Tuesday’s practice for maintenance.