Aaron Ekblad to return from concussion for Panthers

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Florida Panthers defenseman <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/6367/" data-ylk="slk:Aaron Ekblad">Aaron Ekblad</a> is looked at by a trainer after getting checked into the boards by <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/tam/" data-ylk="slk:Tampa Bay Lightning">Tampa Bay Lightning</a> center Gabriel Dumont during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad is looked at by a trainer after getting checked into the boards by Tampa Bay Lightning center Gabriel Dumont during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad will return to the lineup Tuesday for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes after missing his team’s last four contests because of a concussion suffered on March 11.

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In that game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, forward Gabriel Dumont crunched Ekblad’s head along the boards on a hit. The 21-year-old defenseman then clutched his head and crumbled to the ice before skating to the bench under his own power and leaving the game.

This is the second injury to Ekblad’s head and neck area this year. At the World Cup of Hockey with Team North America, Ekblad said he suffered whiplash off a hit from Team Finland forward Leo Komarov. Initially it was reported Ekblad suffered a concussion. Ekblad had to leave the tournament early.

“He was itching to play. I mean he wanted to meet us on the road. He wanted to come to Pittsburgh and play there,” coach Tom Rowe said when asked about the decision to allow Ekblad back in the lineup after suffering a head injury. “We didn’t want to rush him back. Given the fact that he’s such a young guy and had a concussion, we wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing and it’s great having him back but we weren’t going to rush him back. Just talking to him he’s sharp, he’s alert and he’s really excited about playing tonight.”

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In his third pro season, Ekblad, the 2014-15 Calder winner, has struggled through a down year with 21 points in 67 games after he had averaged 37.5 points his previous two seasons. The Panthers currently have 73 points, eight behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final Eastern Conference Wild Card spot. Both teams have 11 games left.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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