ELMONT, N.Y. – Things are going quite well for the Florida Panthers lately.
They are currently riding a 10-game winning streak and sprinting towards the playoffs, holding the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.
A win on Tuesday in Long Island would tie the Panthers with Colorado for most points in the NHL.
Yes, times are good.
And on Tuesday morning, those good hits just kept on coming.
Injured Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad was spotted on the ice at UBS Arena taking part in Florida’s optional morning skate.
Video of Ekblad was taken by Florida Hockey Now’s Colby Guy, which can be seen in the tweet below.
Interim Head Coach Andrew Brunette said in early April that Ekblad had begun skating, but this was the first time he’s been on the ice with any media members around.
The 26-year-old rearguard is continuing to work his way back from a lower-body injury suffered on March 18 during a 3-0 win at Anaheim.
Prior to the injury, Ekblad was playing at a Norris Trophy level.
His advanced metrics were indicative of an elite defender in the NHL, and offensively he racked up 57 points, including 15 goals, as well as a +38 rating, in 61 games played.
Has it been somewhat remarkable that the Panthers have lost a player of Ekblad’s caliber and continued to win, let alone at a league-leading pace? Yes.
Will Florida somehow get even better when Ekblad returns to the lineup? It’s hard to imagine how they wouldn’t.
Ekblad was placed on LTIR after sustaining the injury and will not return to game action before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in early May.
On Friday at FLA Live Arena, Local 10 News asked Brunette if there were any update on Ekblad’s recovery.
“He’s skating a little bit,” Brunette said, reiterating what he’d told us eight days prior. “I think he’s on schedule to hopefully get back here, if not the first (round), the second round of the playoffs.”
Progress is the name of the game.
Brunette has mentioned how impressed he has been with Ekblad’s apparent skill at being a quick healer.
Last year, when Ekblad’s season was cut short by a gruesome leg fracture suffered in late March, he was working his way back and hoping to resume playing sometime during the postseason.
Unfortunately, Florida was knocked out by Tampa Bay in the first round, so we’ll never know if or when Ekblad could’ve returned and potentially helped the Panthers chase a Stanley Cup last spring.
It appears the former first overall pick will get his chance this year.
When that ultimately will happen is still yet to be determined, but the progress over the past few weeks has kept things trending in an optimistic direction.
“It’s something we monitor daily,” Brunette said. “We have a goal in place, and we’ll see if we can hit it.”