The Florida Panthers, losers of seven of the past eight games, are facing what is almost certainly a must-win game on Monday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They will have to do it without the services of start defenseman Aaron Ekblad and center Denis Malgin due to concussions that they suffered on Saturday night in their loss to a depleted Tampa Bay Lightning team.
Coach Tom Rowe announced on Monday (via the Miami Herald) that both players are expected to be sidelined for at least 7-10 days.
Because of the injuries the Panthers had to call up MacKenzie Weegar from the AHL, while Jakub Kindl will draw into the lineup to take Ekblad’s spot.
The 20-year-old Ekblad had appeared in every game for the Panthers this season and recorded 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) before the injury.
The hit that caused the concussion infuriated Rowe, calling it a “real cheap shot from behind” after the game. Gabriel Dumont, the player that delivered the hit, will not face any discipline from the NHL’s department of player safety.
Losing Ekblad at this point is a pretty massive blow to the Panthers’ already fading playoff chances. They are in the middle of a stretch that has seen them collect just three out of a possible 18 points in the standings to fall seven points back of Toronto in the Wild Card race.
A loss to the Maple Leafs on Monday would be pretty much the final blow to their playoff chances.
The concern for Ekblad at this point is this isn’t the first head/neck-related injury he has had over recently. He missed time last season due to another concussion, and was then sent home from the World Cup of Hockey with what was later called “whiplash.”
There was a positive development at Boston Bruins practice Sunday.
Ryan Spooner, previously listed as out indefinitely with a concussion, was back on the ice skating with his teammates ahead of Monday’s game with the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
The Bruins are at the beginning of a four-game road trip that includes three games in four nights with stops in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Spooner will not play Monday, however he left the door open to the possibility of the 25-year-old center returning to the lineup two days later in Calgary.
It’s likely that when that happens, Spooner will return to his role in the middle of Boston’s third line.
“When he’s healthy, he won’t lose his spot because of injury — unless something really changes quickly here,” said Cassidy. “But that’s the plan.”
The losses continue to pile up for the Florida Panthers. So, too, do the injuries.
Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe confirmed post-game that the club’s cornerstone defenseman Aaron Ekblad suffered a concussion on a hit in the second period from Gabrel Dumont. Ekblad left the game and didn’t return. Per the Sun Sentinel, the club also lost forward Denis Malgin to a concussion.
There was no call on the Dumont hit on Ekblad, whose head was slammed into the glass, causing him to fall back to the ice.
However, Rowe had some stern words about the incident.
“I thought the hit on Ekblad was dangerous. We’ll leave it up to the league to review it and see what they think,” he said, later calling the hit “a real cheap shot from behind.”
Ekblad is only 21 years old, but already has a concerning history when it comes to head injuries. During the World Cup prior to this season, he suffered what was first described as a mild concussion before that was changed to a neck injury.
He also went through concussion protocol last year after a hit from Matt Hendricks.
Just more bad news for the Panthers, who surged to a two-goal lead in the first period versus Tampa Bay, but lost 3-2. Ondrej Palat scored the winner with 2:23 remaining in regulation.
The Panthers now have only two wins in their last 10 games.
According to Sports Club Stats, the Panthers now have a 0.6 per cent chance of making the playoffs.
More fallout from Wednesday’s wild Pens-Jets game.
One day after Pittsburgh enforcer Tom Sestito was suspended four games for boarding Tobias Enstrom, the Jets announced that Enstrom is out indefinitely with a concussion suffered on the hit (per Illegal Curve).
Enstrom immediately left the game, a 7-4 Pittsburgh win, and went to local hospital to be checked for a concussion and facial fractures.
This is a tough blow for Winnipeg, a team desperately clinging to fading playoff hopes. The Jets head into tonight’s action five points back of St. Louis for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, but need to leapfrog both the Kings and Blues to get there. What’s more, Winnipeg has played 68 games to Los Angeles’ 66 and St. Louis’ 65.
The Jets were already down a regular defenseman, as Tyler Myers continues to recover from lower-body surgery. It’s likely that Mark Stuart, who was scratched against Pittsburgh, will draw in to replace Enstrom on Saturday, when the Jets host the red-hot Calgary Flames.
Concussions are once again a concern for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who shared some good news and bad news about such injuries following Wednesday’s physical 7-4 win against the Winnipeg Jets.
The good-ish: Pens Inside Scoop (of the team website) passed along word from Mike Sullivan that Kris Letang isn’t dealing with a concussion or anything related to the stroke he suffered in the past. It’s a “hockey-related injury” that he’s currently rehabbing.
So, that seems fairly positive, but the Penguins didn’t provide a timetable for Letang’s return, so we will see.
The not-so-good: Patric Hornqvist, however, is dealing with a concussion. There is at least one element of mild optimism:
The Penguins’ trip continues from March 10-15, so that implies that there’s a chance Hornqvist will only miss four more games (or maybe fewer).
Naturally, concussions can be difficult to gauge, so his outlook could easily change.