Devils' Burns battling cancer again, won't coach next year

Pat Burns will not be behind the bench for the New Jersey Devils next season after being diagnosed with cancer for the second time in just over a year.

The Devils' head coach is resting at his home in New Hampshire after undergoing surgery last week, team president Lou Lamoriello said Friday.

The three-time NHL coach of the year will start chemotherapy soon, Lamoriello said.

The 53-year-old Burns had surgery and chemotherapy for colon cancer following the 2003-04 season. His treatment would have prevented him from coaching in 2004-05, but a lockout wiped out the season.

The recently diagnosed cancer is not colon cancer, a source close to the team told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Lamoriello wouldn't name any candidates for the head coaching position, but it's believed that Larry Robinson, who coached the Devils to a Stanley Cup title in 2000 and a runner-up finish the following year, is the front-runner.

The NHL and its players association are inching toward a new collective bargaining agreement, which would put hockey back on the ice for the 2005-06 season.

Burns last coached the Devils in a first-round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2003-04 playoffs. He insisted on being behind the bench despite being diagnosed with cancer just weeks earlier.

Burns didn't go public with his illness until after the season at which time he said: "For those who know me well, I've never backed down from any fight. And I'm not going to back down from this one."

Burns underwent surgery and chemotherapy shortly after and told reporters in October that he was making progress, but that he was "still not out of the woods."

A former policeman from Hull, Que., Burns has coached 13 seasons in the NHL with Montreal, Toronto and Boston. He was hired by New Jersey after the 2001-02 season.

Burns sports a 501-367-151 coaching record for his career.

with files from Associated Press