Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman will be out indefinitely after he sustained a non-displaced fracture of his left fibula playing against the New York Islanders on Friday.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Stralman's season is not over and he could return during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin April 13.
"Obviously it's a little different getting hurt Oct. 25 than it is March 25," Cooper said. "It hurts the team, but we can't lose focus on what need to continue to do to put ourselves in a playoff spot."
Tampa Bay scored four third-period goals to defeat New York 7-4 and move into a first-place tie with the Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division. The teams play here Saturday.
Stralman appeared to catch the toe of his skate in the ice in front of the Lightning net as he was defending Anders Lee during an Islanders power play in the first period. Stralman blocked a shot while on his hands and knees before play was stopped at 7:32.
Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison was on the ice with Stralman when the injury occurred and said he knew it was serious.
"I didn't even know he was down until I turned around," Garrison said. "When the ref blew the whistle, I saw he was in a lot of pain and couldn't get off the ice. You never want to see that."
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos missed 48 games with a broken leg in the 2013-14 season and said he hopes Stralman's injury isn't quite as bad as it looks.
"Obviously I know about leg injuries," Stamkos said. "The fibula is a non-weight bearing bone, and that's a good thing. Hopefully we can get him back sooner than later because he's an elite defenseman in this league."
The Lightning said Stralman will not need surgery, with crutches or a walking boot required during the healing process.
Garrison said it will be a group effort from the defense to fill the void caused by Stralman's absence. Tampa Bay used seven defensemen in a game 23 times this season.
"He does a lot of things for us, plays a lot of minutes, he's involved on the [power play] and the [penalty kill]," Garrison said. "They are big shoes to fill, but we've got guys with the ability to do it."
Stralman, second on the Lightning in ice time per game behind defenseman Victor Hedman, had nine goals and 34 points in 73 games.