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Michigan hockey's Jon Merrill out after cracking his vertebrae

Expected to be a vital contributor once again for Michigan hockey this season, junior defenseman Jon Merrill will be sidelined for up to six weeks with an injured vertebrae.

Gregory Shamus - Getty Images

A 6'4 junior defenseman taken by New Jersey in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft, Michigan hockey's Jon Merrill will be forced off the ice for the next six weeks with a fractured vertebrae, as reported by Tom Gulitti of NorthJersey.com.

Merrill was injured during Michigan's exhibition game against Windsor on Tuesday, after a blind hit forced him head-first into the boards. Lucky to have avoided an even more serious injury, Merrill will be forced to wear a neck brace for a while as he recovers, but will not require any sort of operation from doctors, according to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello.

"It’s nothing that needs surgery," Lamoriello said on Wednesday. "It’s just needs time to heal. But I spoke to him today and he’s doing fine."

The left-handed Merrill tallied 11 points over 19 games for Red Berenson's Wolverines last season, but sat out the entire first half of the year due to a violation of team rules. Merrill made a key decision to come back to college instead of heading off to play with New Jersey, and his 22-game suspension may have played a big role in his decision to return. Though Berenson could opt to play things safe with his star defender, Merrill's six-week timetable could still mean his inclusion in a key Nov. 24 showcase game with Cornell at Madison Square Garden.