SUNRISE — Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour were on the ice together Saturday morning but soon, they will be joining the rest of their Florida Panthers teammates.
Coach Paul Maurice said Saturday that his two high-profile defensemen will start practicing with the team beginning on Sunday morning.
Although the two will wear non-contact jerseys for the time being, this is obviously a big step toward their return from offseason surgery.
“I am really excited,” Ekblad said.
Both players played through shoulder injuries during the playoffs and the two have been skating and working out either before or after the rest of the team concludes practice.
General manager Bill Zito said the timeline for both players to return was mid-December, but Maurice said Saturday that both could be back as early as the end of November.
“Tomorrow will be good because tomorrow will be the first practice,’’ Maurice said.
“We will have nine D on the ice, but we’re going to be quite a bit faster and a little bit bigger with those two guys out there. You put two guys with the elite things they do — Aaron’s range, for sure, and his puck ability and then just Brandon’s pure speed on breakouts and things like that — it just changes the way you look.”
The Panthers are obviously excited about the prospect of having them both back within the month although the team will have to make some roster decisions when that happens.
Ekblad is currently on long-term injured reserve which allows the Panthers additional salary cap room; Florida only had room for 22 players on its roster when Ekblad’s $7.5 million salary counted against the cap.
The two will be joining their teammates for the upcoming road trip and will wear yellow no-contact jerseys for the time being.
PANTHERS ON DECK
SEATTLE KRAKEN @ FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
- This Season: @ Florida, Saturday; @ Seattle, Dec. 12
- Last season: Tied 1-1
- All-time regular season series: Seattle leads 3-1-0
- Up Next for the Panthers: Monday at Boston, 7