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Florida Panthers Pregame: Aaron Ekblad returns to Dallas

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Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad is treated by medical personnel after fracturing his left ankle during a game against the Dallas Stars last season. // Screen capture courtesy @BallyPanthers

Florida Panthers star defenseman Aaron Ekblad suffered a gruesome ankle injury the last time he played in Dallas back on March 28. On Thursday, Ekblad and the Panthers return to face the Stars but he says this is “just another building.”

And, Ekblad is as good as he ever was.

Perhaps better.

”The amount of work he put in was remarkable,” Andrew Brunette said. “It’s a tribute to him. He  went right back at it right away and he put himself if not the same, but even better. He constantly improves. He is such a hard-working guy off the ice, he has really grown into that over the years. Tribute to him for coming back better than ever.”

The injury was not pretty to see happen and left Ekblad with months of rehab.

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”It was obviously a long summer,” Ekblad said. “I was able to be back on the ice 12 weeks after the injury and then I had two months of hard skating — maybe more actually — before I played a game. That was huge for me, and I needed it. It has made it so I have been able to get to a certain level that I am used to.”

With 11:02 left in the second period, Ekblad chased down a puck toward the half wall, turned and was hit.

It appeared his skate was caught in the small gap between the ice and the half boards, the impact of the hit taken by his left leg.

Ekblad immediately hit the ice clutching his leg and was in considerable pain.

The game was stopped as soon as officials saw him writhing on the ice and, not long after Florida’s medical staff got to him, local EMTs came onto the ice with a wheeled stretcher.

Players from both teams gathered around Ekblad although some, like close friend Keith Yandle, were unable to watch.

”You see your teammate, your friend on the ice, that’s never easy,” Yandle said after the game. “Whether it is a guy on your team or on the other team, it is tough to see that.”

Said Jonathan Huberdeau: “You hear him scream and it must have hurt so bad. It kind of gets you. He is a great guy, a great teammate. It sucks. It’s part of the game … I didn’t see it (happen) and I don’t really want to see it. It’s a tough play and it’ll be tough to be without him. We will be there for him and we will support him.”

Ekblad was stabilized on the ice and gave a wave as he was carted off.

Thursday, he returns to the same rink he was hurt on.

He said there were placed in the arena he noticed “here and there” but it doesn’t bother him.

“It’s just another building,” he said. “I took a puck to the face in Ottawa and I don’t really look back at it as anything crazy. It was a long recovery and I am just glad to be back where I am, happy to be playing here again.”

Morning Skate Updates

  • Sergei Bobrovsky gets the start on Thursday with Jonas Johansson backing up with Spencer Knight on the Covid list.
  • Brunette said he is comfortable calling Johansson’s name if he needs to play — even though he has not played since joining the Panthers last month. “I don’t think we would have brought him in if we didn’t think he could do the job,” Brunette said.
  • Sam Reinhart and Mason Marchment remain out of the lineup due to Covid protocols.
  • Sam Bennett serves the second of this three-game suspension but traveled with the team and practiced on Thursday.
  • Only one lineup change from Tuesday: Defenseman Olli Juolevi, off the Covid list, replaces Lucas Carlsson.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT DALLAS STARS

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