Bryan Bickell has been sidelined for much of the season as he gets treatment for multiple sclerosis, but the 30-year-old took part in practice for the second time in less than a week.
The hockey world was shocked in mid-November when news came that Carolina Hurricanes winger Bryan Bickell had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
At the time of the diagnosis, Bickell, 30, said he had been struggling to understand what had been going on with his body for more than a full season, dealing with health issues that were at the time diagnosed as the symptoms of vertigo. The issues dated back to the 2015 Stanley Cup final, during which Bickell captured his third Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Upon learning of the MS diagnosis, though, Bickell said he was hopeful that he would eventually find his way back into action and continue his NHL career, and in December, Bickell told reporters that it could be a month or more before he was able to return.
“It’s not a sprint, it’s going to be a marathon, and it’s going to take some time to get things right, ideally, to get me back on the ice,” Bickell said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. “That’s what I’m hoping for…It could be a month, it could be a couple months to get back on the ice.”
Well, two months after the diagnosis, Bickell appears to be on his way back, even if that just means getting onto the ice with teammates. Bickell returned to the ice in a non-contact jersey late last week and was again out for practice with teammates on Monday. It could signal the start of what would be an inspiring return to the lineup.
Bickell was last able to suit up on Oct. 30, but it was almost clear then that something was ailing him. He skated only 5:45 in the outing, was out the next four games, listed as out with an illness five games later and the announcement of his diagnosis came on Nov. 11. In seven games with the Hurricanes before he hit the injured list, Bickell scored one goal and was averaging less than 10 minutes per game.
There may be some hope that knowing what is ailing him could even help Bickell get his career back on track. According to Lazerus, Bickell said he had grown frustrated with his play and not knowing what was wrong didn’t help matters. Now, with Bickell knowing what he’s dealing with and getting proper care, there’s the potential for him to find his game. But, if nothing else, everyone around the league will be thrilled just to see him get back on the ice.
Winnipeg has allowed three or more goals against in eight of their past 10 games, and with Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson struggling, the Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran Ondrej Pavelec.
It took 47 games and more than three months, but with the season potentially slipping away as their goaltending fails them, the Winnipeg Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Pavelec’s recall from the minors comes the day following the Jets’ 5-2 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, which is the fourth straight defeat Winnipeg has been handed and the eighth time in 10 games that the team has allowed three or more goals against. Bringing Pavelec up is a move the Jets certainly hopes can stop the bleeding, because right now coach Paul Maurice is likely aching for someone, anyone, to come in and stop the puck with some consistency.
As he comes up from the Moose, Pavelec is sporting an 8-7-2 record, 2.78 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 18 outings in the AHL, and he’s only two days removed from putting in his best effort of the entire season. Sunday evening against the Chicago Wolves, Pavelec was tested 44 times, but he allowed only one puck to elude him, turning aside 43 shots in a 4-1 Manitoba victory.
Pavelec’s trip back to the big league doesn’t come simply as a response to him having one good outing and yet another Jets loss, though. Over the past several weeks, the idea of calling up Pavelec has been bandied about, especially as both Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson have struggled to piece together anything that resembles the type of run of play one would expect from a big league starter.
At times it was hard to fathom a scenario in which a young, growing team like Winnipeg wouldn’t stay all-in on their young netminders, hoping one or both would find a way through this tough stretch. With Pavelec available to possibly give the club a jolt, the Jets have decided that might be exactly what they need.
And if the move is one viewed to be out of desperation, that would be because it is. There’s a reason Pavelec has spent more than half of the campaign buried in the AHL along with his $3.9-million cap hit. But save pulling the trigger on a trade that would bring the Jets a starting netminder, what other options do the Jets really have? Eric Comrie is a promising prospect, but another young goaltender added to the mix is the last thing Winnipeg needed right now.
Don’t go thinking Pavelec will be the Winnipeg’s idea of a long-term fix, though. He is as stop-gap as stop-gap options come.
Over the course of his career, Pavelec has been a below-average netminder, boasting a career .907 SP and bloated 2.85 goals-against average. Though he had the best season of his career in 2014-15 — his .920 SP was substantially better than any year prior — he followed it up with a .904 SP mark in 2015-16. Comparatively, Hellebuyck’s difficult campaign has seen him post a .907 SP, and his career SP is .912. Hutchinson is a career .908 SP goaltender, with a tough .894 SP throughout this season.
All the Jets want right now is someone who can come in and stop some pucks. If that’s Pavelec, great. If that’s Hellebuyck or Hutchinson, better. But the fact of the matter is that with only a few months remaining, the Jets have the league’s third-worst points percentage during a season in which they were supposed to be taking a sizeable step forward. That needs to change, and maybe the increased competition in goal — or the veteran presence — is enough to turn things around.
The Breakaway Challenge is no more, but the often ridiculous event at the skills competition offered up some fantastic moments and great laughs. Take a look back at the five best attempts.
The highlight of the NBA’s all-star weekend, almost without fail, is the Slam Dunk Contest. The event has delivered moments like Michael Jordan’s foul line dunk, Vince Carter’s forearm in the rim jam and last season’s phenomenal showdown between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine.
It would only make sense then that the NHL would try its hand at imitating the event, creating the Breakaway Challenge as its version of the dunk competition. The goal was simple: wow the crowd with incredible displays of puckhandling or win them over with props and creativity. Most players went for the latter, and it’s been one of the more ridiculous and comical events at the all-star weekend over the past six skills competitions.
However, after its six-season run as one of the weekend’s events, the NHL has decided to do away with the Breakaway Challenge, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. The news only a couple of weeks before the league is set to head to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game and is at least a slight indication that some new competitions could be part of the format.
With the Breakaway Challenge no more, though, let’s take a look back at five of the very best and most memorable moments from the contest:
5. Johansen gets some help, but Voracek one-ups him
Ryan Johansen had the Columbus crowd in the palm of his hands by using an Ohio State jersey as a prop, and he really got the crowd on its feet by getting a youngster to help bury a shot. It was a great moment, for sure, but Jakub Voracek really got the crowd laughing by stealing Johansen’s idea with the help of another kid on hand: diminutive Flames star Johnny Gaudreau.
4. Ovechkin is the new Captain Canada
If this is the end of the Breakaway Challenge for good, then Alex Ovechkin will go down as the greatest participant the competition has ever had. He won the first ever event in 2008 and with the chance to defend his crown in 2009, he pulled out all the stops, getting a hand from fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin and endearing himself to the Montreal crowd with an interesting choice of headwear.
3. The transformation of Burns
It almost doesn’t matter which team you support when it comes to Brent Burns. He’s an absolute stud on the blueline for the Sharks, he’s one of the most exciting players in the game, he’s got a unique love of animals and he has a Harry Potter tattoo. That last one will only please a certain generation of fan, but it’s indicative of the personality he brings. Burns also isn’t afraid to make light of his grizzled appearance, and he pulled off the perfect gag at the 2016 All-Star Game.
2. SuperKane takes center stage in Ottawa
Ovechkin was the king of the Breakaway Challenge for three straight All-Star Games, and it took a superhuman performance by Patrick Kane for someone to finally take the crown from the ‘Great 8.’ Kane went prop heavy with his attempts, but the clever use of an “exploding” puck was really the topper.
1. Subban pays tribute to greatness
As he continues his career well into his 40s, Jaromir Jagr’s status as one of the game’s most beloved players grows, and that seemingly goes for both players and fans alike. So, how do you win over an entire crowd and one of the greatest players the game has ever seen in one breakaway attempt? Well, you throw on a mullet, a Jagr jersey, some Cooperalls and cap it off with a salute.
Ryan Callahan’s battle back from a hip injury cost him eight games to start the season, put him out of action for all of December and is now threatening to cost him a significant chunk of the second half of the campaign.
In the off-season, the Ryan Callahan got the bad news that the surgery to repair a hip labral tear would keep him on the shelf for five months. That meant missing the World Cup of Hockey, sitting out the start of the campaign and not making his way back into the lineup until the end of October.
But no one would have expected that Callahan’s issues with his hip would get quite this bad.
After returning to action for the Lightning’s final game of October, Callahan suited up for the next 14 games, but with his injury flaring up, he was forced to sit out the next 15 games, missing more than a month of action. He finally got back into action to for Tampa Bay’s first game of 2017, but less than a week later Callahan was back on the sideline and the Lightning don’t expect him back anytime soon. It was announced that the “nagging lower-body injury” would force Callahan out for another four weeks.
Asked about the injury, Lightning coach Jon Cooper was open about the situation, admitting there was “lot’s of concern” about Callahan’s health at the moment.
“Everybody knows who follows our team what a gamer he is, his passion to play and to help our team, especially when things haven't gone as well as we'd have hoped,” Cooper said, per TampaBayLightning.com. “For him to get in for (three) games and have to be out with some lingering effects with some past issues he's had, it's killing the kid. So, you feel for him. We're missing an emotional leader. It's tough all the way around.”
And there is no doubt concern for Callahan, who now has played only 18 games this season and could potentially play less than half the campaign by the time he gets back into action. The only good news in all of this, if you can call it that, is that the four weeks Callahan is out will likely include the weeklong break the Lightning get in mid-February. That will give him ample opportunity to heal up without the worry of missing action.
More than the short-term, though, the Lightning have to be worried about what Callahan’s injury could mean for the future. Since coming over to Tampa Bay in a blockbuster deal at the 2014 trade deadline, Callahan hasn’t had to miss much time at all. All told, he has been sidelined for just 14 games over the past two seasons. However, with his current ailment persisting for roughly seven months post-surgery, there has to be some worry that the next three seasons of his contract could be awfully tough to get through.
That has to be a worry for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, too. It wouldn’t be too tough a criticism to call the Callahan contract one that the Lightning wish they could get out from under because of the term and salary remaining for a player who has become a fixture in middle-to-bottom half of the lineup but is out-earning all but Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos this season. And with three years at $5.8-million per remaining, the contract could provide a significant roadblock when it comes to inking some of the free agents Tampa Bay will have to deal with in the near future, including Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Drouin.
A healthy Callahan gives the Lightning more options when it comes to making their roster work, even if that means finding creative ways to maneuver around the salary cap due to his hefty contract. But if the injury continues to haunt him, putting him in and out of the lineup for the next few seasons, that’s the worst-case scenario for everyone.