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Apr 4, 2024 2:46 pm

Panthers D Aaron Ekblad (undisclosed) likely out until playoffs

aaron ekblad warms

Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad will likely miss the rest of the regular season with an undisclosed injury, but Florida coach Paul Maurice firmly believes the veteran will return for the playoff opener.

In the Panthers’ 5-3 loss at Montreal on Tuesday, Ekblad — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft — played only 7:16 before leaving with an injury.

“I don’t think he plays the rest of the regular season,” Maurice told reporters. “But we are quite confident that he’s 100 percent and ready to go by the first game.”

Ekblad, 28, who has missed 25 games this season, has 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 51 games. In his 10th season with Florida, Ekblad has 347 points (115 goals, 232 assists) in 676 games.

“This is not new and it’s not unknown to us, what it is,” Maurice said of Ekblad’s injury. “He’s got a real good handle on how long it’s going to take and he’s progressing really well today from it, so we’re getting there. We’re going to miss him.”

Josh Mahura will take Ekblad’s spot on the blue line when the Panthers travel to Ottawa to face the Senators on Thursday. Mahura, 25, has eight assists in 26 games this season.

Called up Wednesday from Charlotte of the American Hockey League, defenseman Uvis Balinskis will also play as the regular season winds down, Maurice said. The 27-year-old has three points (one goal, two assists) this season in 22 games.

Ekblad isn’t the only key member of the Panthers to go down recently. Forward Carter Verhaeghe suffered an upper-body injury in Monday’s 6-4 loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs and is week-to-week.

Verhaeghe is among Florida’s top scorers with 71 points (33 goals, 38 assists) in 75 games. In five seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning (2019-20) and Panthers, he has 248 points (126 goals, 122 assists) in 329 games.

“We have lots of confidence he’ll be ready for the start of the playoffs,” Maurice said Tuesday of Verhaeghe. “He may make the last game, but we don’t think he’ll play many regular-season games.”

–Field Level Media

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