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Chiarelli confirms Ekblad (upper-body injury) has left Team North America

Florida Panthers v New York Islanders - Game Three

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 17: Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers arrives for Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 17, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Team North America general manager Peter Chiarelli has confirmed earlier reports that Aaron Ekblad has left the team and will not return after suffering what the Miami Herald, quoting a Florida Panthers source, reported as a “mild concussion” earlier in the tournament.

“While Aaron would have liked to stay with his teammates at the World Cup of Hockey, we respect the decision for him to continue his evaluation and rehabilitation in Florida with the Panthers’ team doctors,” said Chiarelli in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“Aaron was a very important part of our defence core here and a key leader on this team. We wish him all the best in his recovery.”

That’s a tough loss for Team North America, which can still earn a berth in the World Cup of Hockey semifinals.

On the other hand, it’s understandable why the Panthers would want Ekblad back in Florida, given they just signed him to an eight-year, $60 million contract extension over the summer.