The game will soon be forgotten.
Bryan Bickell’s emotion will not.
The Carolina Hurricanes played the New York Islanders on Thursday in a game the Isles had to win to keep their slim playoff hopes intact. The Isles won 3-0, taking an early lead, maintaining their intensity and getting a 28-save shutout from goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Bickell was playing his second game for the Canes since his return to the NHL this week. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, the veteran forward went through months of treatment for the disease, not knowing if he would play hockey again, much less play for the Canes this season.
Bickell, 31, was back in the Canes’ lineup Tuesday for the road game against the Minnesota Wild, but his family was not able to attend and share the moment. But Thursday’s game was at PNC Arena, and Bickell’s family in the stands, cheering him on.
After the game, Bickell was asked about the two games back, about his play.
“The starts in each game have been slow, but as the game goes on I think it gets better,” he said. “It’s nice just to be back. It’s been a long road just to get here. Through the teammates and people who have helped me, the support to help me get here, it’s definitely special.”
When it was mentioned his family was able to see him play Thursday, Bickell said, “Every time I see my oldest (daughter), she always wants to go to the Canes game. So it’s definitely special.”
Bickell soon began to blink back tears, which was understandable. It has been a long road, a tough struggle. His family – his wife, Amanda, and their two daughters – always has been his biggest concern, and they have fought the fight together.
And being in the locker room, surrounded by his teammates, after again being on the ice and in the fight, was as Bickell put it, definitely special.
“We’re just going to take it game by game,” he said. “It’s tough. I haven’t told my teammates yet. I’ve got to talk to my teammates in the next couple of days and let them know first, you know, what’s happening.”
Bickell didn’t say what he would tell his teammates. He didn’t talk of retirement. But playing hockey, at the highest level, is stressful and takes a physical toll on all who play it.
After undergoing treatments for MS, Bickell returned to Canes practices in January, then played 10 games for the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL before being recalled by the Canes.
“He’s been through a lot,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “He’s done a good job getting himself to this point and looking after himself, so good for him.”
Bickell had chances to score Thursday. He was denied on a partial breakaway in the first period and was just wide with a backhander in the third -- “It was close,” he said.
Bickell, who played 15 shifts and had 11:10 of ice time, said he would “feel better” Friday, noting he was to receive his monthly MS treatment.
“Hopefully the next two games I’ll be better than the last two,” he said.
Carolina has two games remaining – at home Saturday against St. Louis, on the road Sunday against Philadelphia.
The Canes (35-31-14) have lost four straight since the 9-0-4 surge that kept them in the playoff chase. They were shut out 3-0 by the Dallas Stars on Saturday at PNC Arena, then lost a road game at Pittsburgh before going to Minnesota.
There wasn’t a lot to like about Thursday’s game for the Canes. Halak wasn’t forced to make many high-danger stops in posting his second shutout of the season and 41st of his career.
Brock Nelson and Scott Mayfield scored in the first five minutes of the game and Andrew Ladd on a power play in the first minute of the second period for the Isles (39-29-12).
With the Ottawa Senators clinching a playoff berth Thursday, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning and Islanders were left to fight it out for the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Canes had little to play for Thursday. Bryan Bickell had a lot.