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Bickell receiving treatment for MS, hopes to return this season

Bryan Bickell said doctors diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis at an early stage, and that could mean he’s healthy enough to return to the Carolina Hurricanes’ lineup at some point this season.

The announcement Friday from Bryan Bickell and the Carolina Hurricanes that the winger had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis caught the league, its players and the rest of the hockey world by surprise. But Bickell, 30, is already thinking about when he can get back on the ice.

Bickell told the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Hine that he’s already undergoing treatment and “trying to get things stabilized and neutralized” so that he can return to the ice as soon as possible. Of course, that’s if returning is in the cards at all.

"I'm just uncertain," Bickell told Hine. "Knowing what's next is the biggest thing. Hopefully I can get on the ice and help my team and be safe and do my job…You're just scared for the other stage where I've been playing hockey for so long and this definitely could be it. There are roads in life and this could take me down a different road.”

Despite the worry, though, Bickell told Hine that doctors said they caught the disease early, and that could go a long way in helping him get back into action. Bickell said that he first realized there was an issue when a shooting pain that emanated in his shoulder progressed to his leg, which led to him undergoing tests and being diagnosed with MS. When the disease actually began to take hold, though, is anyone’s guess.

Bickell had previously dealt with a bout of vertigo — which struck during the Stanley Cup final in 2015 — and an eye issue, but there’s no way to know if those were at all connected to the MS diagnosis.

"This could have started last week, it could have started a month ago, it could have started three years ago. I really don't know," Bickell told Hine. "The symptoms I had before, they treated those symptoms and everything passed. We figured it out and got fixed and I was playing again.”

The hope is that Bickell will be able to return at some point this season, which is the final year of his four-year, $16-million contract and the first time he’s gotten a real shot in a lineup since the end of the 2014-15 campaign. 

Bickell was a healthy scratch or playing in the minors for much of the 2015-16 season and managed just two assists in 25 games with the Chicago Blackhawks this past season. He was part of a trade that also sent Teuvo Teravainen to the Hurricanes ahead of the current campaign, and he had been a lineup regular up until Nov. 1, when he was forced out of the lineup with a reported illness.

In seven games, Bickell was averaging roughly 10 minutes of ice time per game and had scored one goal, which came Oct. 28 against the New York Rangers. It was Bickell’s first NHL goal since April 7, 2015.

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