After Aaron Ekblad was taken out of Saturday’s game for the Florida Panthers, it looks like he’ll be out for at least a while with a concussion. In the meantime, the Panthers are expected to recall MacKenzie Weegar, according to George Richards of the Miami Herald. The 23-year old has developed steadily in the minors since being selected in the seventh round (206th overall) of the 2013 draft. With 12 goals and 29 points this season, Weegar has been Springfield’s “best defenseman overall” according to Eric Joyce, the Panthers’ assistant general manager.
Weegar will likely make his NHL debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, as the Panthers try to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Now seven points behind Toronto for the final playoff spot, their current five game losing streak has all but dashed those postseason hopes completely.
- Vladislav Namestnikov was at Lightning practice this morning in a regular jersey according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. One of the three Lightning centermen that were injured last Thursday, it would be huge if he could return so quickly. With Tampa just three points back of the Maple Leafs, this back-to-back against the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators is crucial to their season hopes. Today, the team called up Byron Froese to give them some depth up the middle, but hopefully Namestnikov can still return either tonight or tomorrow.
- Both Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette missed the skate entirely, with Smith not convinced Paquette even made the trip to New York. That likely explains why Froese was called up, though it doesn’t bode well for the Lightning.
- Smith also reports that Steven Stamkos again skated before the rest of the team as he continues to work his way back. Wednesday would mark four months since he last appeared in a game, the minimum amount of time he was expected to miss. If the Lightning have any chance of taking and holding a playoff spot, they’ll need their captain back sooner than later.
- The New York Islanders had some friendly faces back at their morning skate, as Alan Quine and Casey Cizikas both stayed on after their pre-skate workout to practice with the team according to Arthur Staple of Newsday. Though they’re both “close, but not ready”, it is definitely a good sign for a team battling for their playoff lives. Cizikas is a very important piece to their lineup, able to move up and down whenever needed. After returning home from their nine-game road trip, the Islanders have a home-and-home with Carolina tonight and tomorrow. They currently sit just a point back of Toronto, and have as good of a chance as anyone to take home that final wildcard position.