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Canucks' Alexander Edler, left, checks Stars' Brenden Morrow in Monday's 7-1 win. He entered play Wednesday leading the team in average ice time and topped all defencemen with 32 points. ((Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press))

The Vancouver Canucks will return from this week's NHL all-star break atop the Western Conference standings and minus what many consider their best all-round defenceman.

Alex Edler will undergo micro discectomy surgery on his back and be out of the lineup indefinitely, the team announced Thursday.

The 24-year-old Edler, who missed Wednesday night's 2-1 win over Nashville, appeared to hurt himself during Monday's 7-1 rout of Dallas when he collided with Stars forward Jamie Benn.

"After consultation with our physicians it was decided that surgery was the best course of action," Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said in a statement released by the club."

The loss of Edler is a huge blow to Vancouver's defence corps and special teams.

He led the Canucks in ice time with an average of 24 minutes 23 seconds per game before Wednesday's contest and was the highest-scoring blue-liner with 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists). 

Five of Edler's goals have come on the power play, which ranks third in the NHL next to league-leading Chicago and Anaheim.

Rookie defenceman Lee Sweatt took Edler's spot in the lineup Wednesday and notched the winning goal in the third period.

Injuries to Aaron Rome (knee), Andrew Alberts (shoulder) and Sami Salo (torn Achilles tendon) also has vaulted 21-year-old Chris Tanev into the Vancouver lineup. Salo is skating with the team but the Canucks haven't announced a return date.

Vancouver enters the break with a 31-10-9 record for 71 points. It leads the West by five points over Detroit (30-13-6) and have a 15-point bulge over second-place Colorado (25-19-6) in the Northwest Division.