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Hurricanes pulling for Bryan Bickell

Forward, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, receives outpouring of support from coach Bill Peters, teammates

by Kurt Dusterberg / Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes are offering words of encouragement after receiving the news Friday that forward Bryan Bickell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Bickell, acquired by the Hurricanes from the Chicago Blackhawks on June 15, suffered from dizziness and ocular issues while with the Blackhawks. He struggled to regain the form that allowed him to score 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Chicago won the championship in 2013.

"Obviously you've got to wrap your head around that a little bit," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "When I called him, he was doing outstanding. I got to see him this morning and he was around his teammates. We're going to do everything we can to support him."

On Friday, Bickell said, "Since the 2015 playoffs, I've been struggling to understand what was going on with my body. Again during the past few weeks, it felt like something wasn't right. Obviously this is a bit of shock for my family and me, but I am hopeful I will be able to return to the ice and continue playing the game that I love."

Later Friday, Bickell tweeted, "Thanks 2 all the fans for the prayers & wishes. It's all new 2 me & my family but seeing all the support from u guys makes it easier for us."

Tweet from @bbicks29: Thanks 2 all the fans for the prayers & wishes. It's all new 2 me & my family but seeing all the support from u guys makes it easier for us

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS in an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body.

The cause of MS in unknown. The progress, severity and symptoms in any person cannot be predicted. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50.

Bickell sent a team text to his Carolina teammates on Friday afternoon, leaving the Hurricanes players stunned.

"It's shocking news. It puts everything in perspective," Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner said. "He's going through stuff with family and digesting everything. We're hoping he goes through his treatments and feels better. We'll just do our best to be that support system for him."

Former Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in September, 2012. He played five games in 2012-13 and 29 the following season, but he retired after the 2014-15 season.

Bickell met with team officials and teammates prior to the morning skate Saturday, when the Hurricanes prepared for their game against the Washington Capitals. Peters, who coached Bickell with Rockford of the American Hockey League from 2008-10, emphasized what a good influence Bickell is in the locker room.

"Great guy, high character guy," the Hurricanes coach said. "Everyone enjoys being around [Bickell]. He has a great personality, full of life. He's a guy's guy. He's a real good guy."

Forward Teuvo Teravainen, who came to the Hurricanes in the same trade with Bickell, echoed the sentiments of his teammates.

"He's a super-nice guy off the ice. I enjoy spending time with him," Teravainen said. "Those kinds of things are really serious, so you have to hope for the best for him and hope he's getting better. It always stops your thinking for a little bit."

There is no timetable for a possible return. Bickell has one goal in seven games this season.

"It is unfortunate. It's not easy to swallow, for him or anyone on this team," forward Jordan Staal said. "I know he's one of the most easy-going guys I've met. He's going to roll with this one and get back as soon as he can. Hopefully it will be all good news from here on out."

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