VANCOUVER -- Defenseman Alexander Edler will miss 4-6 weeks because of a fractured index finger on his left hand, leaving the Vancouver Canucks without either player from their top defense pair.
Edler, who is scheduled to have surgery Monday, was injured early in the first period when he attempted to block a shot by Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg in a 3-2 shootout win on Saturday. His regular playing partner, Christopher Tanev, hasn't resumed skating because of a lower-body injury that has kept him out of the lineup since Nov. 2.
"Obviously, it changes things," coach Willie Desjardins said of being without Edler and Tanev. "It's a challenge for sure, but guys are going to get an opportunity, and they have to use it."
With Tanev out at least another week, it won't be easy to replace Edler, who leads Vancouver in average ice time per game (23:41) and plays on the top power-play and penalty-kill units. Edler has a goal and two assists in 21 games this season but has been regularly matched up against the opponent's top forwards.
"[Edler] plays big minutes and he is a great player for us, but with him out, everyone is going to have to step up," said second-year defenseman Ben Hutton, who likely will see more tough matchups paired with Erik Gudbranson. "[Edler and Tanev] play big minutes for us and they are our top pairing, and to have them both go down at the same time is never something you want, but some guys just have to step up and fill a role."
Video: VAN@LAK: Edler nets PPG to tie the game late
Defenseman Philip Larsen is ready to return after missing the past nine games, first as a healthy scratch and then with a bacterial infection. He was with rookie Nikita Tryamkin on a new third defense pair in practice, and Luca Sbisa moved up from that spot to take Edler's place on the left side on a pair with rookie Troy Stecher.
"[Edler and Tanev] are our first D pairing, and it's tough when they are out, so a lot of D has to step up," said Larsen, who has four assists in 13 games this season after spending the previous two playing overseas. "It's been a rough couple weeks. I got out of the lineup and wanted to get back in as quick as possible and then when you get sick on top of that it was not the best timing."
Desjardins warned not to read too much into the defense pairs in practice Monday and indicated depth defenseman Alex Biega, who was assigned to Utica of the American Hockey League on a conditioning stint Saturday, could be recalled in time to play against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; SNP, FS-N, NHL.TV).
Biega played 51 games with Canucks last season, but with eight defensemen on the roster he only got into one game as a fourth-line forward before being sent down.
"We're going to be looking at some different options with our D depending on who we are playing, depending on lines and how we're matching up," Desjardins said.
Hutton said the key will be keeping it simple without Edler and Tanev.
"The coaches have been talking about sticking within the structure, not trying to do too much and letting the game come to you," Hutton said. "If you go out and try to do too much that's when mistakes are going to happen."