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Training Camp

Aaron Ekblad back to work with Panthers

Defenseman recovering from upper-body injury sustained at World Cup

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad did some individual on-ice work Saturday as he continues to recover from the upper-body injury that knocked him out of the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

Like Ekblad, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant was part of Team North America; he served as an assistant under coach Todd McLellan. Gallant returned to practice Saturday and provided an update on the 20-year-old defenseman.

"[Ekblad] is going to be fine," Gallant said. "You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He's going to [skate] and see how he feels, but everything looks good."

Ekblad was injured during Team North America's game against Team Finland on Sept. 18. Initial reports said Ekblad had a concussion, but Sportsnet reported Tuesday it was a neck injury.

On July 1, Ekblad signed an eight-year contract extension with the Panthers reportedly worth $60 million, an average annual value $7.5 million, that begins next season and will keep him in Florida through the 2024-25 season.

Gallant said the other three Panthers who participated in the World Cup, center Aleksander Barkov and left wing Jussi Jokinen of Team Finland and center Vincent Trocheck of Team North America, have returned to Florida, but won't start practicing until Thursday.

The Panthers open their preseason schedule Tuesday with split-squad games against the Nashville Predators at BB&T Center, then have a day off Wednesday.

Gallant said the World Cup participants will benefit from playing in it.

"They came into that tournament with a week and a half training camp, a few exhibition games, and then they went all out for three games," Gallant said. "Definitely, it's going to be good for all those guys. But they need a little bit of a break now."

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