Buzz: Ekblad could return for Panthers for Game 1 against Capitals

Florida Panthers

Aaron Ekblad could be back in the lineup when the Panthers host the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Tuesday (7:30 pm ET; ESPN2, SN360, TVAS2, BSFL, NBCSWA).

The defenseman was a full participant at practice Sunday after he missed the final 21 games of the regular season with a lower-body injury sustained against the Anaheim Ducks on March 18,

“We’ll see how he does after today, but he went full workload, so I’m hoping we’re ready here at least at some point in the series,” Florida coach Andrew Brunette said. “” There’s a chance Game 1. Again, we’ll see how he did today. Seemed to be fine. But you never know with these things. They’re kind of tricky here. So, we’ll see how he does. “

Ekblad led Panthers defensemen and finished tied for ninth among NHL players at the position with 57 points (15 goals, 42 assists) in 61 games. He was 13th in the NHL averaging 24:55 in ice time per game.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Mason Marchment did not practice Sunday, each taking a maintenance day.

Brunette said that Huberdeau is expected to play Game 1 of the best-of-7 series but was less certain about Marchment.

“Yeah, I do not think so,” Brunette said about Huberdeau possibly missing Game. 1. “With ‘Huby,’ I gotta hear back today. With ‘Marchy,’ I’m hoping for Game 1, but not sure.”

Huberdeau tied Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau for second in the NHL with 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) this season. Marchment had an NHL career-high 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) in 54 games. – Alain Poupart

Boston Bruins

Linus Ullmark will start for the Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday (7 pm ET; ESPN, SN360, TVAS2, BSSO, NESN).

“He’s gotten better as the year went on, so I would say that’s partly because of competition [with goalie Jeremy Swayman]partly getting comfortable with being a Bruin (after signing a four-year contract July 28), “Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said.” There could have been a number of reasons, but I think competition was certainly one of them. “

Ullmark made 37 saves in a 5-0 win against the Buffalo Sabers on Thursday for his first shutout of the season. In his past five games, the goalie is 3-1-0 with a .977 save percentage.

“He’s trended very well for us,” Cassidy said. “You want to be playing your best hockey as the playoffs near, and I think you can certainly say he is.”

Ullmark played 41 games (39 starts) and was 26-10-2 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .917 save percentage this season. He shared the position with Swayman (23-14-3, 2.41 GAA, .914 save percentage, three shutouts in 41 games) and briefly Tuukka Rask, who retired after attempting a comeback from offseason hip surgery.

“We’ve had both goalies play almost an equal amount of games and minutes,” Cassidy said. “Obviously, Tuukka was in the mix there for a while, so there’s competition there. I do not know how much of it he had in Buffalo (playing for the Sabers from 2015-21), but obviously to get the net there, he had to have had some. ” – Patrick Donnelly

Minnesota Wild

Marcus Foligno and Mats Zuccarello are each likely to play when the Wild host Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the St. Louis Blues on Monday (9:30 pm ET; ESPN, SN360, TVAS2, BSN, BSWI, BSMW).

The forwards were full particpants in practice Sunday.

“We gave both (Foligno) and ‘Zuccy’ the option of getting off [the ice] whenever they wanted to get off and they did not get off. So, that’s nice, “Wild coach Dean Evason said.” I did not speak to either one of them. So again, we’ll evaluate and talk to both individually and talk to [trainer] John [Worley] and make a decision from there. “

Zuccarello missed the final three games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. He established NHL career highs with 55 assists and 79 points in 70 games this season.

Foligno left in the first period of a 4-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday after a collision with Avalanche defenseman Kurtis MacDermid.

He set NHL career highs in points (42), goals (23) and assists (19) this season.

“It’s the playoffs,” Foligno said. “That’s my biggest answer. It’d feel wrong sitting out and just tried to get back and obviously feeling a lot better yesterday and got good news from docs. Just something you’ve got to play through for a while, and I can do that.

“Obviously, there’s a little bit more equipment on the knee but other than that, I feel pretty good skating wise and I wouldn’t be out there if I didn’t feel like I could play. So, I feel pretty good.” – Jessi Pierce

Edmonton Oilers

Darnell Nurse could return to the lineup for the Oilers when they host the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round on Monday (10 pm ET; ESPN2, CBC, SN, TVAS, BSW).

The defenseman missed the final four games of the regular season after sustaining a lower-body injury during the second period of a game against the Avalanche on April 22. He was a full participant when the Oilers practiced Sunday.

“It was nice to get back out on the ice and skate with the guys,” Nurse said. “We’ll go from there.”

Asked if he could have played in any of the final four regular-season games had it been necessary, Nurse said, “I’m not sure.”

Nurse led Edmonton defensemen with 35 points (nine goals, 26 assists) in 71 games this season while averaging 25:03 of ice time per game.

Coach Jay Woodcroft said the Oilers want to wait until Monday before making a determination on Nurse’s availability.

“I think he had a good day today, so that’s a positive sign,” Woodcroft said. “We’ll see how he wakes up in the morning and we’ll see where we’re at. We’ve got some time, so we’ll use it.

“What you do is you sit down and you take the opinions of the learned medical professionals and you couple that with what the player has to say. I think Darnell had a good day. We’ll see how he wakes up in the morning and we’re looking to build on top of it. ” – Tim Campbell

Tampa Bay Lightning

Brayden Point will play for the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday (7:30 pm ET; ESPN2, CBC, SN, TVAS, BSSUN).

The forward, who had 58 points (28 goals, 30 assists) in 66 games this season, missed two of the Lightning’s final six regular-season games due to a lower-body injury, including an 8-1 win against the Maple Leafs on April 21 and a 6-4 victory against the New York Islanders in their final regular-season game April 29.

“Yeah, everybody is ready to go,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.

Point, who was a full participant in practice, centered a line with left wing Brandon Hagel and right wing Anthony Cirelli.

“I feel good, I’m ready to go,” Point said. – Dave McCarthy

Toronto Maple Leafs

Ondrej Kase will be a game-time decision for the Maple Leafs when they host the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Monday (7:30 pm ET; ESPN2, CBC, SN, TVAS, BSSUN).

The forward, who has not played since March 19 due to a concussion, was a full participant at practice Sunday, skating at right wing on a line with left wing Ilya Mikheyev and center John Tavares. Kase had 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 50 games this season.

“Kase looks close, we’ll make a decision on him [Monday]”Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said.

Michael Bunting, who missed the final three regular-season games with a lower-body injury, participated in practice for about 25 minutes before departing. He had 63 points (23 goals, 40 assists) in 79 games.

“Bunting is also close, but [the medical staff] wanted to see how he responded today, “Keefe said.” I would say he is doubtful for [Monday] but we certainly expect to see him in the series. “- Dave McCarthy


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