CHICAGO -- Ben Lovejoy's fractured finger, which he sustained Sunday in a fight, has presented the Anaheim Ducks with another lineup challenge to overcome.
Lovejoy had logged shifts on the top pairing next to Cam Fowler and provided a steady, stay-at-home defensive presence that allowed his partner to push things more offensively.
The question now is who will fill that role with Fowler for the next six-to-eight weeks, the length of time Lovejoy is expected to miss?
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't giving any hints after Anaheim's morning skate Tuesday in Chicago, but said there will be high expectations for whichever player gets that assignment.
"As a coach, I've seen so many injuries in the past," said Boudreau, whose Ducks face the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday at United Center. "You don't like it to happen, but you deal with it. If you sit and whine about it, then you're usually not going to have success. But if you say, 'OK, he's out. Somebody else is in,' you expect that guy to do just as good a job as Ben did."
The best bet to get the first crack at playing next to Fowler is Clayton Stoner, who'd been playing the left point on the third pairing with Sami Vatanen. In that scenario, Mark Fistric is likely to enter the lineup and take Stoner's spot with Vatanen on the third pairing.
Boudreau said the other options to enter the lineup would be Bryan Allen, currently on injured reserve, or rookie Josh Manson, recalled Monday from Norfolk of the American Hockey League.
Lovejoy's injury is just the latest in a spate of health issues plaguing the Ducks to start the season. Regardless, they're 7-2-0 in their first nine games and had a seven-game winning streak that was stopped Sunday by the San Jose Sharks.
"The lineups have changed an awful lot, but to me, I never worry about that too much," Boudreau said. "To me, it's an opportunity for somebody else to come out and do a great job. All I remember [as a player] is when people got injured it was a chance for me to play. You make the best of it. I anticipate the guys that play for Ben or [Kyle Palmieri], whoever's in, does as good a job as they do."
One of the injured regulars, forward Dany Heatley, appears set to return to the lineup for the Ducks. Boudreau said Heatley has "potentially got a good chance," of playing. If so, he'll likely join the top line at left wing with center Ryan Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry.
Chicago had some injury news as well. Goalie Corey Crawford (upper body) participated in the morning skate and will make the upcoming road trip to Ottawa and Toronto. Crawford, who will miss his fifth straight game, said it's possible he might start Thursday at the Ottawa Senators.
Rookie Scott Darling (1-0-0, 1.00 goals-against average), who won Sunday in his NHL debut, will start his second game in a row for the Blackhawks. Rookie goaltender John Gibson (1-1-0, 3.50 GAA) will start for the Ducks.
Also noteworthy is the career point total of Chicago right wing Marian Hossa, 35, who is two points shy of 1,000 points in his 17th NHL season.
"I'm just pretty grateful I'm here still at this point, [and have] such a milestone to reach," Hossa said. "Obviously [I've played] with good teammates. I had a great opportunity in my career to play with great teammates. Being healthy, that helps playing lots of games. Those two things [are the main reasons]."
Here are the projected lineups:
Dany Heatley - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey - Nate Thompson - Jakob Silfverberg
Emerson Etem - Rickard Rakell - Tim Jackman
Cam Fowler - Clayton Stoner
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Mark Fistric - Sami Vatanen
Injured: Ben Lovejoy (fractured finger), Bryan Allen (lower body), Kyle Palmieri (ankle), Patrick Maroon (knee)
Scratched: William Karlsson, Chris Wagner, Josh Manson
Bryan Bickell - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Brad Richards - Kris Versteeg
Ben Smith - Marcus Kruger - Jeremy Morin
Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Trevor van Riemsdyk - Michal Rozsival
Scratched: David Rundblad
Injured: Corey Crawford (upper body), Daniel Carcillo (right knee)
Status report: If Allen is ready to return from his injury, he would have to come off injured reserve to play for the Ducks. ... This could be Darling's last action before he's likely sent back to Rockford in the AHL. Blackhawks backup Raanta has a one-way contract, which means he'd have to clear waivers if Chicago wanted to send him to Rockford instead. The Blackhawks aren't likely to take that risk. ... Rozsival is expected to return to the lineup for Chicago after being a healthy scratch Sunday. If he doesn't, Rundblad will play with van Riemsdyk.
Who's hot: Fowler has a point in six of the past seven games for the Ducks, all assists. ... Kane has points in three of the past four games (two goals, two assists) for the Blackhawks, including a point in each of the past two.