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Ekblad injured in game against Czech Republic

by Arpon Basu /

MONTREAL -- Defenseman Aaron Ekblad, taken by the Florida Panthers with the top pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, left a Canadian national junior team scrimmage against the Czech Republic late in the third period Tuesday after taking a heavy open-ice hit.

Wednesday afternoon, Hockey Canada announced Ekblad suffered a concussion on the hit and will not participate in the rest of the evaluation camp, which runs until Friday.

Ekblad was stickhandling through the neutral zone when he was met head-on at the Czech blue line by defenseman Lukas Klok and from the side by another Czech player. He was sandwiched, went down in a heap, wobbled as he got up and slowly made his way to the Canadian bench before leaving for the dressing room.

Klok, an undrafted 19-year-old, is listed at 5-foot-11, 161 pounds on the official Czech roster, or 4 1/2 inches and 55 pounds less than Ekblad's listed 6-foot-3.5 and 216 pounds.

Canada coach Benoit Groulx had few details on Ekblad's condition after the scrimmage, a 6-2 win for Canada. He could not confirm whether Ekblad had been seen by doctors.

"He'll be re-evaluated [Wednesday] morning," Groulx said. "Obviously it's an upper body, but we'll know more [Wednesday] morning."

Canada plays Russia on Wednesday night in Sherbrooke, Quebec, but Ekblad was not scheduled to play in that game.

Groulx said they will be cautious in handling Ekblad's injury during the rest of summer development camp in preparation for the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships. The camp wraps up Friday.

Defenseman Haydn Fleury (Carolina Hurricanes) and forwards Anthony Duclair (New York Rangers) and Frederik Gauthier (Toronto Maple Leafs) each had a goal and an assist in the game. Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres), Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators) and Nicholas Paul (Senators) also scored for Canada.

"We saw a lot of positive things," Groulx said. "We had a good start and a good second period. We were skating well, we were pushing the pace. Overall, I think we have to be pleased with this first game."

The Czech Republic got goals from the only two first-round draft picks on their roster at this camp; Jakub Vrana (Washington Capitals) and David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) each had a power-play goal.

Czech goaltender Vitek Vanecek (Capitals) faced a barrage of 41 shots and allowed all six goals, but kept the game within reach through 40 minutes with a 3-1 deficit.

Canada's returning starter from last year's WJC, Zachary Fucale (Montreal Canadiens), stopped all nine shots he faced in the first half of the game. Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh Penguins) took over midway through the second period and allowed a goal on an unlucky bounce off defenseman Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets) on his first shot and allowed one more during a two-man disadvantage in the third period. Jarry stopped seven of nine shots.

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