TORONTO (AP) -Tampa Bay Lightning center Brad Richards left Monday night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with an apparent injury to his left leg injury.
Richards crashed into the corner boards behind the Leafs' net at 7:32 of the second period, after battling with Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle and lunging at a loose puck, and was unable to get back up. He was helped off the ice while favoring his left leg and didn't return to the game.
"Obviously, he's a big part of our team," Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "Any time you lose a key player and a leader, it's definitely tough."
Richards' status was unclear after the game, but the Lightning were optimistic the injury wasn't serious. The team considered putting him back in the game for the third period, but decided to be cautious.
"You know, it was 4-1 for Toronto," Lecavalier said. "It's good he stayed off, and hopefully he'll be better for tomorrow."
Richards was unavailable after the game, but was set to travel with the team to Montreal. The Lightning face the Canadiens on Tuesday.
"Any time you lose a top player like that, it's hard," Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich said. "But it's an opportunity for someone to step up and take over some of those big minutes. ... if he is out for a while, if that's the case."
Richards has 28 points (10-18) in 30 games this season. The 27-year-old center has missed only two games in six NHL seasons, both in 2002-03.