WASHINGTON -- Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell said Tuesday he is targeting the five-game homestand that begins on Feb. 17 to return after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Bickell, 30, has not played since Oct. 30. The Hurricanes announced Nov. 11 he was diagnosed with the disease after he had been suffering from numbness in his right arm and leg and some dizziness.
"I feel good," Bickell said after a conditioning skate at Verizon Center, where the Hurricanes play the Washington Capitals on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET: CSN-DC, FS-CR, NHL.TV). "I obviously don't feel good right now, I just got skated pretty hard, but it's going to help me down the long run. I think we're getting there and getting close to getting back in the rotation. We're shooting for probably after the bye week and then kind of day by day from there."
The Hurricanes play at the Dallas Stars on Saturday and then go on their five-day break. They return on Feb. 17 against the Colorado Avalanche to open a five-game homestand that includes games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 19, Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 21, Ottawa Senators on Feb. 24 and Calgary Flames on Feb. 26.
Bickell said he started feeling better after he began treatments of Tysabri, a drug he receives intravenously once a month to help limit the debilitating effects of MS, in early December and has been skating for about a month. He's due to receive his next treatment later this week.
After that, Bickell plans to spend the break at home in Raleigh, N.C., to get ready to possibly play against the Avalanche or later in that homestand.
"It all depends too on what other guys are doing, if they're going on a huge streak," Bickell said. "I like to see them win. If they need me, I'm sure an extra week of me skating is not going to hurt me. We're just going to wait until after the next treatment and after the bye week and go from there."
Bickell said if the Hurricanes ask, he would be open to playing games on a conditioning assignment with Charlotte in the American Hockey League before returning to the NHL.
"They haven't discussed that yet, but if it's an option I'm sure it would be nice to get some games in down there to prepare myself to jump in the lineup," he said.
Simply having a target date for his return has Bickell excited after he didn't know if he'd play again when he was diagnosed.
"I've gotten a lot of texts and phone calls from family members that want to come down to see that first game when I come back," he said. "Definitely it's going to be special after the ups and downs that we've been through the last handful of months to finally get back to doing what I've done my whole life, to play hockey and to be in this league."