Just as Vancouver was starting to build up something that even closely resembled momentum by picking up five wins in their past nine games, they’ll have to go without top defenseman Alex Edler for what at least a month.
Edler, 30, suffered a fractured finger in Saturday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche that put the blueliner out of the game after he had skated just four minutes in the contest.
The fracture came midway through the first frame when a shot by Colorado Avalanche pivot Carl Soderberg caught Edler in the glove. When Soderberg’s shot was blocked by Edler, he almost immediately began nursing his hand, keeping it off of his stick and tight to his body for the remainder of his shift:
The blocked shot was the last meaningful contribution Edler would make to the contest, a 3-2 shootout win by the Canucks, on Saturday. He didn’t take a single shift following the shot block.
The Vancouver Sun’s Iain MacIntyre reported that coach Willie Desjardins said Edler would undergo x-rays when the team returned home for their upcoming three-game homestand, and Monday afternoon the team announced that Edler would be out 4-6 weeks due to the injury. Even before the results of the x-rays had been announced, though, the Canucks had placed the veteran rearguard on injured reserve.
That Edler is injured isn’t all that surprising for anyone who has followed the Canucks or Edler’s career. Since 2007-08, his first full-time campaign in Vancouver, Edler has missed more than 100 games due to injury, including major absences in 2010-11 and 2015-16 that saw him miss a combined 60 games due to back and leg injuries, respectively.
Even with Edler’s oft-injured nature, though, the timing of the injury is absolutely brutal. It’d be one thing to lose your top defenseman during a season that has already looked as though it was tailspinning out of control, but matters are only made worse by the fact Vancouver’s other top-pairing defenseman, Chris Tanev, also finds himself on the shelf with an ankle injury.
With Edler out of the lineup, the Canucks’ blueline consists of two rookies, Troy Stecher and Nikita Tryamkin, with Erik Gudbranson, Luca Sbisa, Alex Biega and sophomore Ben Hutton rounding out the ‘D’ corps. That’s not exactly the defensive depth of a championship-calibre team.
It’s going to be a tall task for the defensive group, too, because the minutes are going to have to be spread around in a way they haven’t all season. No defenseman in Vancouver has averaged even close to Edler’s nearly 24 minutes of ice time per night, which means big minutes could very well fall to the trio of Hutton, Stecher and Gudbranson, who fall in line behind Edler in terms of average ice time.
The lone piece of good news in the wake of the Edler news could be that defenseman Philip Larsen could be set to return to action. He wasn’t officially listed on the injured reserve as of Monday after missing the past nine games, in part due to a virus. If Larsen is back, he can pick up some of the slack in a second-pairing role, leaving Sbisa, Tryamkin and Biega to pick up third-pairing duty.
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