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NHL - US Sports: Ekblad retains confidence in Panthers

Defenceman Aaron Ekblad believes the Florida Panthers can bring the form that won them the Presidents’ Trophy into the play-offs and turn around a 2-1 deficit against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference first round.

The Panthers, 5/7 to prevail in the best-of-seven series, were beaten 6-1 in game three on Saturday, but the heavy loss has done little to dampen Ekblad's confidence in the group, who produced the best regular season in their history.

Panthers impressed minus Ekblad

Ekblad scored 57 points (15 goals, 42 assists) in 61 games before sustaining a lower-body injury which kept him out for the final 21 games of the season.

In his absence, the Panthers went 17-4-0, continuing their red-hot form which saw them record the best record of any team in the NHL (58-18-6) and clinch the Atlantic Division and Presidents’ Trophy.

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Prior to his injury, Ekblad was in the conversation to win the Norris Trophy as the league’s best blue-liner ranking fourth among defencemen in goals and fifth for points.

The 6’4" Canadian is in an eighth season with Florida, who drafted him with the first pick of the 2014 NHL draft.

The current play-off campaign is his third with the Panthers, who are aiming to win a series in the post-season for the first time since they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 1995/96.

Panthers backed to respond

Ekblad said to the media: "I think there's a lot of things that we could do better. I think to sum it up simply is find the game that we had in the regular season and mould it into a play-off game that we can play.

"I feel confident that we can do that. I'm really happy about the way we've come back from adversity all year and I think this is just another step for us."

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