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FHN Today: Ekblad back with Florida Panthers, Ovechkin with Caps

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With Game 1 of the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals coming up on Tuesday night in Sunrise, a number of top players were back on the ice Sunday morning.

For the Panthers, star defenseman Aaron Ekblad was with MacKenzie Weegar on the top defensive pairing.

Although coach Andrew Brunette would not confirm Ekblad’s return Tuesday — he has been out since sustaining an injury March 18 — it would be surprising if he is not in the lineup for Game 2.

In Arlington, Va., Alex Ovechkin took part in the Capitals’ full practice per Sammi Silber of Washington Hockey Now. 

Ovechkin missed the final three games after appearing to injure his shoulder in a game against Toronto.

Sunday, he took part in drills and line rushes.

There is a lot going on between the two teams — and you can find it all between our two sites.

PANTHERLAND

So, how much pressure is on the Florida Panthers when they open their playoff series on Tuesday night?

Some say quite a bit.

Florida has not won a playoff series since 1996 — and although none of the players have been around the team that long, Florida’s homegrown core has been knocked out of the first round a few times. It has been both frustrating and motivational.

— While Ekblad was back with the Panthers on Sunday, the team was missing some of its big names.

— There is still time to get in to the FHN playoff Bracket Challenge pool with the chance to win a free FHN+ subscription for a year as well as a new Florida Panthers baseball cap.

— Sam Bennett plays with a certain edge but the Panthers hope he does most of his damage on the ice.

— I was on 7 SportsXtra last night talking about the Panthers and Capitals.

Watch it HERE if you want to.

— Here is a really nice feature on Joe Thornton from Colby on how much he has meant to the Panthers this season.

— Catch post-practice reaction from Sasha Barkov, Radko Gudas and Andrew Brunette on the FloridaHockeyNow YouTube page.

If you like what you see on the YouTube page, please subscribe to it; we’re trying to get to 1,000 subscribers so we can start doing live shows and the like.

We’re close! Like, really close.

CAP CENTER

The Washington Capitals are underdogs in their playoff series against the Panthers — and they’re embracing the challenge.

Ovechkin wants ‘no excuses’ from the Capitals in these playoffs.

— The Capitals have a third goalie on board as Zach Fucale has come up from the Hershey Bears.

— After losing three straight games to close the regular season, Lars Eller had strong words for the Caps.

AROUND THE NHL

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said he “believes in his heart” that Patrice Bergeron is going to continue playing.

— The Pittsburgh Penguins got ready for the Rangers by doing a lot of work on their special teams.

— The Bruins have perhaps the toughest matchup they could get outside of Sunrise as the Carolina Hurricanes dominated the regular season.

Linus Ullmark will go in Game 1 for the Bruins.

— Will Zdeno Chara call it a career?

— What about Keith Yandle?

— Big doings in Detroit as the Wings have fired Jeff Blashill.

— Could the Wings be looking at Torts?

— How did the Golden Knights miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

— Montreal’s Carey Price looked sharp against a Florida team that did not on Friday night. He says he played that game as if it may be his last.

— Nice night in Buffalo as the legendary Rick Jeanneret called his final game after 50 years with the team. He got to call an overtime-winner as Casey Mittelstadt scored.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1

VS. WASHINGTON CAPITALS (Best of 7)

  • Game 1: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise  
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN2
  • Radio: WQAM 560, SiriusXM
  • Tickets: CLICK HERE
  • Season series — Florida won 2-1: @Florida 5, Washington 4 OT (Nov. 4);  @Washington 4, Panthers 3 (Nov. 26); @Florida 5, Washington 4 (Nov. 30)
  • All-time regular season series: Capitals lead 67-44-11, 9 ties
  • Playoff history: None
  • First-round schedule — Game 1: Washington at Florida, Tuesday, 7:30 (ESPN2/BSF); Game 2: Washington at Florida, Thursday, 7:30 (TBS/BSF); Game 3: Florida at Washington, Saturday, 1 (ESPN/BSF); Game 4: Florida at Washington, May 9, 7 (TBS/BSF); Game 5*: Washington at Florida, May 11; Game 6*: Florida at Washington, May 13; Game 7: Washington at Florida, May 15. *If necessary 
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