- Associated Press - Friday, January 22, 2016

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - Willie Mitchell has been shut down for the foreseeable future by the Florida Panthers, a move that could give their captain an extended rest to recover from some nagging injuries.

Mitchell was placed on injured reserve Friday. He’ll miss Florida’s games Friday against Stanley Cup champion Chicago and Saturday against Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay.

After that, Florida’s last game before the All-Star break is Tuesday against Toronto. The Panthers’ first game back from the break is Feb. 2, so Mitchell could conceivably get two full weeks off for rest and miss only three games.

“I don’t think it’s serious,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said.

Gallant said Mitchell has been “limping around” for a couple weeks with various issues. Mitchell played in all 46 of Florida’s games this season going into Friday, with one goal and six assists on the season.

“Willie’s got a great stick,” Panthers All-Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad, a mentee of Mitchell’s, said Friday. “He’s unbelievable penalty-killing, 5-on-5 defensively he’s unbelievable. He still has a pretty good shot, getting it through on the point. There’s a lot missed from him. He’s a leadership guy. He’s our captain. He kind of lights the way. Obviously we’ll be missing that.”

The Panthers are getting Ekblad back in the lineup for Friday’s game against Chicago, after he missed the last four games while recovering from a concussion. Florida was 0-3-1 with Ekblad out of the lineup.

“Everyone’s a little banged up,” Ekblad said. “We’ve got warriors in this room who are willing to push through anything.”

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