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Montreal legend Richard improves

Maurice "Rocket" Richard, battling stomach cancer, showed improvement Sunday when he was awake and well enough to eat breakfast.

"On Friday, he couldn't speak anymore, he just slept all the time," Richard's eldest son, Maurice Jr., said. "But starting on Saturday, he was better. He opened his eyes.

"And (Sunday), he's okay. It's still not a great situation, but there's hope.

"Friday, I thought it was the end," he said. "He had such a hard time breathing, but we realized it was due to the medication."

The condition of the 78-year-old Hall of Famer was discussed by Richard's family and doctors at a nationally televised news conference at Hotel Dieu hospital.

Dr. Andre Robidoux, the chief of surgery at the hospital, confirmed that Richard has had a recurrence of the abdominal cancer that first appeared about three years ago, but said it had not spread.

He also denied reports that Richard has Alzheimer's disease, or that he was ever comatose.

Robidoux said tests showed that Richard's cancer, which is inoperable, "has not spread to his brain, lungs, liver or anywhere else. It is confined to the site where it started originally."

Robidoux said Richard may have appeared semicomatose because of the painkillers and other medications he was given and may have looked to have Alzheimer's because medication often makes patients confused and forgetful.

A hospital spokesman said daily updates would be released from the hospital beginning Tuesday and that the family asked for privacy while Richard remains there.

Richard scored 544 goals and won eight Stanley Cups with the Canadiens in the 1940s and 1950s and added 82 playoff goals. In 1944-45, he was the first player to score 50 goals in a season.

BLACKHAWKS: The team has called a news conference for noon today to make Finland's Alpo Suhonen the league's first European-born head coach.

FLYERS: Center Eric Lindros, who hasn't played since March 12 because of two concussions, is scheduled to have further tests and be examined again today. If cleared by his doctor, neurologist James Kelly of Chicago, Lindros could practice Tuesday.

OILERS: Part-owner Bruce Saville, angry over an ownership rift that led to the resignation Friday of president-general manager Glen Sather, quit the board of directors. Saville said he's hoping for a mutiny at the board's annual meeting: "I'm hoping there's actually a new election of directors next week and I'm hoping there'll be some fresh faces."

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