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Canucks' Sutter, Edler out long-term with injuries

Center, defenseman expected to miss at least six weeks

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Defenseman Alexander Edler and center Brandon Sutter each will miss at least the majority of the Vancouver Canucks' 28 remaining regular-season games, perhaps all of them in Sutter's case.

Edler will be out six weeks because of a fractured leg, and Sutter will miss 6-8 weeks with a broken jaw, the Canucks said Friday.

Coach Willie Desjardins' pregame speech before playing the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday focused on Vancouver finally being healthy. Top center Henrik Sedin, top-four defenseman Dan Hamhuis and Sutter, Vancouver's shutdown center, each had returned from injury during the previous three games. With a few games together under their belt, Desjardins told his players it was time to make a strong push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Before the game in Denver was over, Edler had fractured his leg blocking a shot and Sutter had broken his jaw when he was hit by a deflected puck.

"Willie said before the game, 'We're finally healthy, we're ready to go,'" center Bo Horvat said Friday. "We finally get everyone back and -- bam! -- all of a sudden, we lose two of our key guys right in that game."

Sutter, who missed 33 games from Nov. 12-Jan. 23 because of sports-hernia surgery, has had surgery to repair his jaw, the Canucks said.

If that playoff push is going to happen for the Canucks, it will have to be without a top-pair defenseman and a key special-teams center.

"When Sutter came back, it was a big help for our [penalty kill], a big help for our power play, and we know [Edler] brings 25 minutes of hard ice time and that's tough for other guys to fill in," Daniel Sedin said.

If the Canucks can't stay in the playoff race, their roster could change more significantly before the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29, especially with a handful of veteran players who will be unrestricted free agents in the summer.

General manager Jim Benning said several times during the past week that the top priority is to make the playoffs; he even talked about possibly being a buyer at the deadline to help that effort.

Vancouver was two points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference and four points out of third place in the Pacific Division entering Friday. But the Canucks will also be trying to win three straight games for the first time all season when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, NHL.TV).

"The one good thing, I guess, is we've had injuries all year so we've had other people develop," Desjardins said. "It's not like it's the first time we've had injuries so nobody had that opportunity, but saying that, those are two guys we'll miss."

The Canucks are used to being without Sutter, who played four games after returning from the sports-hernia surgery before he was injured again. His absence will mean more opportunity for 19-year-old rookie center Jared McCann, who has seven goals and six assists in 46 games, and journeyman Adam Cracknell, who has three goals and five assists in 40 games.

Video: NSH@VAN: Sutter ties game on D. Sedin's

Playing without Sutter will be more difficult without Edler, who anchors each special-teams unit.

"We've been there, done that, but losing both is tough," Horvat said. "[Edler] plays such a huge role."

Edler's 24:27 of average ice time leads the Canucks, and his 20 points are tops among their defensemen despite being matched up against the opponent's best forwards each game. The return of Hamhuis, who missed almost two months with multiple facial fractures, will help offset the loss, but Vancouver will also have to lean heavily on rookie Ben Hutton in a top-four role for the next six weeks.

"We just got our full D corps back together, and [Edler] goes down," Hutton said. "Guys just have to step up and fill his minutes and hopefully pull together a few big wins."

Hutton played 23:14 in a 2-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. That's almost five minutes more than his season average, but the 22-year-old said he hardly noticed the extra workload.

"Maybe one game you don't (feel the extra minutes), but over a period of time, it makes a difference," Desjardins said. "It's hard when all of a sudden those minutes increase by three or four a night. People don't think that's big, but it does make a difference and even the quality of ice time. [Christopher] Tanev and Edler lead our team in defensive-zone starts, so all of a sudden you are starting in a different part of the rink more often."

Defenseman Yannick Weber, who was on his way to Utica of the American Hockey League after clearing waivers, will replace Edler on the point of Vancouver's top power-play unit.

"I was ready to go down and fight my way back," Weber said. "All of a sudden, you get the call and you're back up. It kind of feels like it was all just a dream."

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