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Vancouver Canuck blue-liner Willie Mitchell, shown defending the net in a game against the Kings last season, is out with a fractured vertebra. ((Jeff Lewis/Associated Press))

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Willie Mitchell is out with a fractured vertebra, coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday.

Mitchell sustained the fracture shortly after Christmas, but continued to play through nine NHL games despite feeling intense pain.

The six-foot-three blue-liner has taken the last two games off, and announced Tuesday he won't accompany the Canucks when they leave on a four-game road trip Wednesday.

There is no specific recovery time for this type of injury — a stress fracture to the L2 vertebra in Mitchell's back — but Vigneault said it could affect him for up to five weeks.

Vigneault also said Mitchell could play through the injury without aggravating it, though the pain might be too much.

"All the doctors that checked him, have all came to the same conclusion, with this type of stress fracture, if he can endure the pain, there is no way he can aggravate it," the coach said. "It shouldn't be that much longer, knowing Willie Mitchell, in my mind anyways."

The Port McNeill, B.C., native suffered the fracture after buckling awkwardly into the boards while trying to dodge a check in a 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Dec. 31.

"This time of year is an important time of the year," a hopeful Mitchell said Tuesday, "and I like to think that I am a guy on the team that can lead and help the team down the stretch."

Mitchell has seven points (one goal, six assists) in 41 games for the Canucks this season.

With files from the Canadian Press