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Aaron Ekblad, Sasha Barkov at Florida Panthers Tuesday Practice



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Florida Panthers Sasha Barkov and Aaron Ekblad, as depicted outside FLA Live Arena, were at practice on Tuesday following the Christmas break. It is unknown whether either will play Thursday night. — Photo @GeorgeRichards

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers had two of their biggest names back at their post-Christmas practice on Tuesday afternoon as Aaron Ekblad and Sasha Barkov both skated at FLA Live Arena.

The two players wore yellow no-contact jerseys.

Radko Gudas was again a full participant and is expected to return when Florida plays host to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.

Barkov has been out since taking a hit to the knee from New Jersey’s Nico Hischier on Dec. 17. Ekblad left Friday night’s game against the Islanders with an apparent shoulder injury.

Following practice, coach Paul Maurice said the status of all three should be more clear after Wednesday’s workout at the arena.

While Barkov and Ekblad were in no-contact jerseys, Barkov was running with the top line at times while Ekblad was getting physical.

Good signs, both.

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“We were pleased to have all of them on the ice and moving,” Maurice said. “We should have a good idea at the end of practice tomorrow. It was the first real practice back so the guys wore gold so no one would get into them.

“You saw Ekblad did not mind throwing hits. So it is a free pass for them because they can hit anyone they want but they cannot be hit. I think that comes off tomorrow and if they green light from the trainers, they’ll be back.”

Maurice spoke about the Panthers signifying that Ekblad was ruled as “questionable” to return Friday night although he did not.

“If he’s not able to come back in a game, that’s usually a tell that we’re worried about it,” Maurice said. “But by the time he got on the plane that night, he was feeling much better. It is something he has dealt with before. That’s a good thing because the player knows where he is at with it and he felt a bit stronger.”

The Panthers made a couple of roster moves before the holiday break — and more on Tuesday.

Grigori Denisenko and Givani Smith have been sent back to AHL Charlotte while Matt Kiersted, Zac Dalpe and Chris Tierney remain with the team.

Florida also called up former Finnish league scoring champ Anton Levtchi from Charlotte after signing him as a free agent this past offseason.

Levtchi, 27, is expected to make his NHL debut on Thursday night.

He has seven goals and 13 points in 24 games for the Checkers this season.



  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Florida won 3-1
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 51-38-11, 6 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Dec. 30 at Carolina Hurricanes, 7:30 p.m.
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