Ekblad expected back for Panthers, who need to ‘address some things’

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The suddenly struggling Florida Panthers will get a nice boost Friday when they host the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks.

“I feel good and I feel prepared to play,” defenseman Aaron Ekblad told reporters today.

Ekblad has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, courtesy Edmonton’s Matt HendricksAll four games ended in Florida losses. Prior to that, the Panthers had won 12 straight and were the talk of the league.

On Monday, they dropped a 4-2 decision at home to the Oilers.

“It’s not good enough,” coach Gerard Gallant told reporters. “We give them a couple of goals, we give them, I don’t know, four or five breakaways tonight. We gave them odd-man rushes. It wasn’t a fun game to coach.”

In retrospect, the good times seemed bound to end for the Panthers. The last two games of their 12-game winning streak, they managed just 30 shots total — 16 in one game, 14 in the other.

“We’ve got to settle it down and kind of re-evaluate how we’ve been playing and what’s going wrong,” forward Nick Bjugstad said. “We can’t overthink it, but we do have to address some things.”

The Panthers host Chicago (winners of 12 straight) Friday then Tampa Bay (winners of six straight) on Saturday. So, yes, that’s a fair comment by Bjugstad — the Panthers do need to address some things.

But getting Ekblad back should help.

“I didn’t think we were going to miss him that much,” Jaromir Jagr told reporters, “but we did.”