Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos will require surgery to repair a broken tibia suffered in Monday's 3-0 loss against the Boston Bruins and is out indefinitely.
"At this point Steven will be out indefinitely," general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement released by the team. "The medical staff in Boston, in consultation with our team physicians, has made the decision to surgically repair the injury. The procedure is expected to take place tomorrow morning. The biggest concern for me, and the rest of the Lightning, is that decisions are made in Steven's best long-term interest, and we feel this is the appropriate course of action."
Stamkos left the game on a stretcher with 7:11 remaining in the second period Monday at TD Garden. He slid into the right post at the Lightning's side of the ice after some contact with Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton, and the Tampa Bay star seemed to slam his right leg into the post.
Stamkos attempted to get up, but then fell back down and punched the ice several times with his right fist before he was attended to by medical personnel.
"I was just trying to drive the net. He was too fast for me so he caught me, and I guess we both just went to the net and then I don't know what happened," Hamilton said. "He fell and hit the post pretty hard. It's unfortunate and kind of sad to see that happen."
The Lightning gave up a pair of quick goals not long after Stamkos was hurt. After the game, coach Jon Cooper said the Lightning can't dwell on moving forward without their superstar.
"It's tough to lose a guy like that," Cooper said. "We'll see what we're made of. You talk about a test, this is a test."
Stamkos is currently tied for the NHL lead in goals (14) with Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues and in points (23) with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He took to Twitter on Monday evening to thank everyone for their support.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was among the opposition hoping Stamkos makes a quick recovery.
"It was very unfortunate. Nobody likes to see a player being injured and carried off on a stretcher. And we just hope he's OK," Chara said. "It goes for both teams and every hockey fan. When it comes down to really seeing somebody lying down the ice and being hurt, I think everybody feels for him. So we just hope that he'll be OK because obviously he's one of the best players in the League."
After losing for only the fifth time in 17 games, the Lightning are right back on the ice Tuesday night at the Montreal Canadiens.
"We don't have to think about it too much right now," wing Martin St. Louis said. "We've got a game tomorrow. And we've got a big West Coast trip after that. So we're going to be playing a lot of hockey and I don't know how bad it is. So it's tough to comment, you know. We lost him tonight for a period and a half. He's a big part of our team, but I thought we battled."
As important as he is to the Lightning, there is also an entire country holding its breath over Stamkos' injury. He's expected to play a huge role for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who will be an associate coach there, was among those to weigh in Monday.
"I guess when you get taken off on a stretcher it means severe," Ruff said. "I think our depth is one of the things we have with our group, but obviously he is one of the guys we're counting on. Let's hope it's not bad."
St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who will serve as an assistant on Mike Babcock's staff, didn't mince words.
"I'm physically sick," Hitchcock told NHL.com after seeing Stamkos go down. At that point word of the broken tibia hadn't come down. "We're all holding our breath. We don't know. We haven't heard anything so we're all holding our breath. He's one of the most dynamic players in the world and you want to see him play all the time, even if you have to play against him."
Lightning defensemen Sami Salo and Keith Aulie also left Monday's game with apparent injuries. Salo was taken to the dressing room later in the second period favoring his right leg and Aulie departed in the third with an upper-body injury.
"We went 16 games without anybody being hurt and the snowball went down the hill today. It was a little tiny guy and it ended up a mountain when it got to the bottom of the hill," Cooper said. "Again, I don't know the prognosis on all these guys, but you lose nobody for 16 games and you lose three games in one, that's tough.
"And it's hockey. Everybody loses guys. Just pick a team. Everybody's lost players. Ours just happened all at once and you can't hang your head. You know it's going to happen at some point. That's why you have depth in the organization and we'll see where we're at."