Aaron Ekblad at the Florida Panthers camp, six months after breaking his leg

SUNRISE, Fla – Florida Panthers claim their first win of the season: Aaron Ekblad has declared himself ready for training camp.

The front-row defenseman will be on the ice when the Panthers officially begin training on Thursday, just under six months since breaking his left leg in a frightening incident on the ice. Ekblad has been skating for several weeks and doesn’t expect to be limited at the start of camp.

“I’ve never been so excited for a training camp or exhibition game in my career so far,” said Ekblad. “I’m really excited to start and really test all of my rehabilitation and preparation.”

The Panthers will practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They open the preseason game with a home doubles schedule against Nashville on Sunday and, barring a setback, Ekblad will likely play in one of those games.

Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar has said Ekblad – between deep sea fishing trips on his boat to land yellowfin tuna in the Bahamas, as well as a few golf outings this summer – has been locked into rehab and gears up for a season where Florida have expectations of a deep playoff run and title contender.

“His attitude has been great,” Weegar said. “I know for a fact that he’s determined to get back to 100%, and I think it’s even more than that. He is more than ready. He looks phenomenal on the ice. He’s going to be another key guy, another leader for us. “

Ekblad was injured on March 28, during the second period of a game in Dallas. Ekblad took a hit and fell very awkwardly, screaming in pain on the ice. A cast was eventually placed on his left leg and Ekblad was removed from the ice on a stretcher.

Surgery followed the next day and the rehabilitation process was predictably arduous: he couldn’t do anything for the first two weeks while waiting for the stitches to come out, and it took almost three months before he was allowed to start over. to skate.

“Obviously, it’s not perfect,” Ekblad said. “I continue to work on it every day, but I’m happy with all of my progress so far and I’m very confident that I can reach the same level of play and surpass my level of play from last season.”

Ekblad played a major role in Florida’s turnaround last season, despite missing the last 21 games of the regular season and then the team’s first-round streak against the eventual Stanley Cup winner. , Tampa Bay. He had 11 goals and 11 assists, averaged over 25 minutes per game on the ice – a career high – and tied a career record with six power play goals.

Ekblad said watching the Panthers in the playoffs and not being able to participate was “brutal” and “heartbreaking.”

“Sitting down and watching isn’t something I’ve ever done in my career. I’ve never had a serious injury like this so it was different for me and it wasn’t necessary. all fun, ”Ekblad said. “And it’s been a long road to recovery. But seeing it from a different perspective and watching the game, maybe I learned things. In the end, that’s what it is, and it’s happened and it’s over and it’s a new year and I hope we can repeat some of that success and take it further. “

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