Panthers’ Ekblad (upper body) could return as early as Friday

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Aaron Ekblad (upper body) won’t be able to play against Tampa or Edmonton on Monday and Tuesday, but there is a chance he’ll be able to suit up in Friday’s game against Chicago.

With Ekblad in the lineup, the Panthers are 26-12-4, but since he’s been out, they’re 0-1-1.

The 19-year-old suffered the injury after taking a vicious hit from Oilers forward Matt Hendricks (above).

Ekblad skated on his own before the team’s practice on Saturday morning.

Despite their back-to-back losses, the Panthers are still atop the Atlantic Division. They have a four-point lead over second place Detroit and a seven point lead over third place Tampa. All three teams have played 44 games.