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.”