Aaron Ekblad will be out of the Florida Panthers lineup for at least the next week after suffering a concussion during Saturday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Coach Tom Rowe said both Ekblad and center Denis Malgin will be out seven to 10 days after both suffered concussions on separate hits during the early goings of Saturday’s second period.
Rookie MacKenzie Weegar was brought up from Florida’s AHL affiliate in Massachusetts although Rowe said veteran Jakub Kindl would be in the lineup against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We just have to take it day-by-day,” Rowe said of Ekblad. “We’ll see how he progresses. I talked to him [Monday] and he said he felt pretty good. But he’s definitely not ready to get back into the lineup.”
This is the third head-related injury for Ekblad in the past 14 months.
Last January, Ekblad missed four games because of a concussion after being hit from behind by Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks.
Saturday, Ekblad was again hit from behind as Tampa Bay’s Gabriel Dumont drove Ekblad into the glass with a high elbow.
Hendricks was suspended three games for his hit on Ekblad; as of Monday afternoon, the league had not done anything to Dumont.
“There’s a 48-hour rule [in which] you can’t contact player safety,” Rowe said. “I will be doing that later.”
During training camp, Ekblad was sent back to Florida from the World Cup in Toronto after he was rammed into the glass by Leo Komarov in the opening game between Team North America and Finland.
Although it was suspected Ekblad had a concussion then, he was told he suffered concussion-like symptoms due to whiplash.
Ekblad was cleared for practice with the Panthers soon after getting back from Canada.
“The way I was told, it was about blood flow,'' Ekblad said then.
“When you get whiplash like that, there's restricted blood flow to the head and that causes systems because the blood doesn't drain out of head as fast. That's why you get symptoms without it being a concussion.
“There's pressure there in your head giving you headaches.”
Weegar, 23, did not make it to South Florida in time for Monday’s brisk practice in Coral Springs and isn’t likely to make his NHL debut Tuesday.
A seventh-round draft pick by the Panthers in 2013, Weegar is having his best pro season since leaving his junior team in 2014.
“The kid has done a great job,” Rowe said. “We want him here to get a taste of what this is all about.”
In 165 minor league games for the Panthers in two different leagues, Weegar has 22 goals and 76 points.
This year, Weegar was selected to the AHL All-Star Game and has 12 goals with 29 points.
Eric Joyce, Florida’s assistant general manager who runs the AHL Thunderbirds, said Weegar has been Springfield’s best defenseman this year and said the Panthers will tender him when he becomes a restricted free agent following this season.
▪ After shuffling all four forward lines before Friday’s game to the Rangers, Rowe put everyone back in place — like Jonathan Huberdeau back with Jaromir Jagr and Sasha Barkov, for example — during Monday’s practice.
Florida’s fourth line was without center Derek MacKenzie on Monday as he was given the day off.
“We went back to what they were more comfortable with, what we had when we were winning,” Rowe said.
▪ The Panthers entertain the Maple Leafs on Tuesday and any playoff hopes Florida still has likely depends on beating Toronto in both of the final meetings these final weeks of the regular season.
The Leafs came into Monday holding the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a seven-point cushion on the fading Panthers.
Florida comes into Tuesday riding a five-game winless streak with losses in eight of its past nine (1-7-1).
“It’s our biggest game of the season,” Rowe said. “We need to win it and we need to win it regulation.”
TUESDAY: MAPLE LEAFS AT PANTHERS
When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.
Series: Toronto leads 38-33-7.
Scouting report: The Maple Leafs are 3-0 against the Panthers this season with two more games left including the finale in two weeks in Canada. Toronto has won its past three games and holds the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.