Bryan Bickell had an assist for the Charlotte Checkers in a 6-1 American Hockey League win against the Cleveland Monsters on Saturday.
Bickell, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on Nov. 11, played about 10 minutes for the Carolina Hurricanes affiliate. It was his first game since the forward played for Carolina against the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 30.
"It feels pretty good," Bickell told the Checkers website. "It was a long wait to get that game, but that first game's over with. It was a rough one to jump back in and play at a high pace here where it's the second step to the NHL. It was kind of rough, but we got that through and we got the win, which was the most important thing. We'll make progress step by step and see how it goes."
Bickell had an assist on a second-period goal by Kris Newbury that gave Charlotte a 5-0 lead.
"From the get-go, we didn't really have a date to come back. I think we're back pretty early, but there's only so much season left, so I wanted to get back," Bickell said. "I wanted to get back in and help out the [Hurricanes], and for tonight to help out the Checkers. There are long ups and downs, but it's nice to put a uniform on, play with the team and do what I've been doing my whole life. It was pretty scary in the first month about if this day was going to come, but I'm happy that it came and now I'm moving forward."
The Checkers continue a six-game homestand Tuesday against the Milwaukee Admirals.
"It worked out that we had just home games, so I don't have to go on the road for a while," Bickell said. "Hopefully we progress in the right way and it's nice to get a couple of home games in front of my wife and my two kids to come watch this game. I know they're excited. … Obviously there's a lot of room for improvement, but it's baby steps right now."
Bickell, 30, has 136 points (66 goals, 70 assists) in 391 regular-season games during 10 seasons with the Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks. He helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015, and was traded to Carolina on June 15, 2016.
"It's one of those things you read about and we get to take part in it. It's very exciting," Checkers coach Ulf Samuelsson said of Bickell's return. "He's still very fast, and obviously it's going to take him a few games to get in a full rhythm, but you can see he's a quality player. He's a good player and we're excited for him."