Panthers' Ekblad cleared to play after injury ended his 2021 season

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Aaron Ekblad is ready to pick up where he left off after a devastating injury in March cut his stellar campaign short.

The Florida Panthers defenseman told reporters Wednesday he's been medically cleared to play and feels "great," according to team website writer Jameson Olive.

Ekblad expects to build on what he accomplished before the injury.

"I'm happy with all of my progressions to this point and confident that I can reach my same level of play from last season and exceed it," he said.

Ekblad was stretchered off the ice during a game against the Dallas Stars on March 28 after colliding awkwardly with opposing blue-liner Esa Lindell.

He underwent surgery the next day - reportedly to repair a left leg fracture - and was given a 12-week recovery timetable, ruling him out for the rest of the season.

The 25-year-old was in the midst of a career-best campaign at the time of the injury. He was leading all NHL defensemen in goals with 11, and the rearguard had collected 22 points while averaging a personal-best 25:05 of ice time over 35 games in 2021.

Ekblad has spent his entire seven-year NHL tenure with the Panthers, who drafted him first overall in 2014. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2014-15.

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Panthers' Ekblad cleared to play after injury ended his 2021 season
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