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Ducks, Flyers lose key defensemen before matchup

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Philadelphia Flyers and Anaheim Ducks face off for the second time this season on Tuesday night, both teams will be missing a top defensemen.

The Ducks' Cam Fowler and the Flyers' Andrew MacDonald each reportedly will miss the next four to six weeks after sustaining what appeared to be knee injuries in victories over the weekend.

The Flyers (5-3-0) will be closing out a five-game homestand while the Ducks (3-3-1) are beginning a four-game road trip.

Fowler fell awkwardly into the boards and was helped off the ice Friday in Anaheim's 6-2 win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens. He leads Ducks defensemen with 22:43 in average ice time.

MacDonald blocked a power-play shot by Edmonton Oilers center Mark Letestu and hobbled through the remaining 30 seconds of his shift in the Flyers' 2-1 win on Saturday. He plays alongside Ivan Provorov on the team's top defensive pairing and ranks behind only Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere with 19:35 of average ice time.

MacDonald also ranks second behind Provorov on the team in blocks (18).

If there is a silver lining for the injury-ravaged Ducks, it is that defenseman Hampus Lindholm (shoulder) is expected to make his season debut Tuesday night and center Ryan Getzlaf, sidelined the past five games with a lower-body injury, is expected to return to the lineup for the first time since Oct. 9.

Defenseman Sami Vatanen, who has missed the first seven games with a shoulder injury, could return during the Ducks' four-game road trip, which has Anaheim heading to Florida for games against the Panthers and Lightning and to Carolina for a date with the Hurricanes.

"You don't replace certain players," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told the Orange County Register. "It has to be done by committee. We have two pretty good defensemen that are about to come back into our lineup at any time. They can chew minutes. And the guys that are here, they're going to be expected again to shore up."

Carlyle said he expects Lindholm will play 20-plus minutes against the Flyers.

With MacDonald out, look for rookie Robert Hagg to take a spot on the top defensive unit with Provorov, and for veteran Brandon Manning, who has been a healthy scratch in five of the Flyers' first eight games, to return to the lineup on a third pairing with rookie Travis Sanheim.

The Flyers also had the option of recalling Sam Morin from the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms. At 6-foot-7, Morin could fill the role of a defensive blue-liner who can kill penalties, but the Flyers might be hesitant to play three rookies on defense.

While the Flyers have won three of four games during their homestand, the Ducks are coming off their most dominant performance of the season. They produced a season-high six goal against the Canadiens despite playing without Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler (hip surgery) and Patrick Eaves.

Eaves was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an immune system disorder. He was hospitalized in intensive care over the weekend, and the timetable for a possible return is uncertain.

The stellar play of goaltender John Gibson (3-2-1, 2.55 goals-against average, .932 save percentage) has kept the Ducks afloat in the first two weeks of the season.

"Hopefully, we'll get (injuries) out of the way now and we won't have to deal with it at the end of the season," Gibson said. "It seems like every team goes through it, but hopefully we go through it now and smoother roads are ahead."

Look for Jori Lehtera, who had a strong game against Edmonton, to see time on the Flyers' third line with rookie center Nolan Patrick and right winger Travis Konecny.

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