PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby injured an ankle while crashing into the rear boards leg-first midway through the first period of the Pittsburgh Penguins' 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night and will be sidelined for an indefinite period of time.
Crosby was favoring his right leg as he was helped off the ice, in visible pain, and the Penguins said he would be re-evaluated Saturday. The Penguins play at Montreal that night, but Crosby will be seen by team doctors in Pittsburgh.
"Obviously, it is a huge loss," said coach Michel Therrien, who doesn't know how long Crosby will be out. "There is no team that can deal with losing the best player in the league. He is the heart of the team and he is our leader. We are going to face adversity and we are going to have to battle through it."
Until now, Crosby has missed only four games to injury during his three-season NHL career. The Penguins' record without him is 0-2-2.
"To see a guy like that go down and not come back, it's tough," Penguins forward Colby Armstrong said. "Guys are going to have to take it upon themselves as a team to fill in. But I don't know if you can fill a spot like that."
The injury -- a high ankle sprain -- can sideline an athlete for a month or longer. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury sustained the same injury Dec. 6 and has yet to return, and it may be well into February before he comes back.
Such a sprain would be certain to cause Crosby to miss the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 27 in Atlanta.
Crosby was carrying the puck in the Lightning end when Tampa Bay defenseman Paul Ranger rammed him with his stick, as Crosby was shooting from the right circle, and Crosby swiped at the puck again as he landed on the ice rear-end first. His momentum caused him to slam into the boards awkwardly with his right leg, his left leg raised, apparently unable to cushion himself as he normally would.
Crosby initially got to his feet and began to limp toward the Penguins bench, only to turn around and enter a doorway that leads to the tunnel to the Penguins locker room. He bent over after reaching the walkway and had to be helped to the dressing room.
Ranger was called for slashing on the play, but the Penguins did not score on the ensuing power play.
Crosby, the NHL's scoring champion and MVP at age 19 last season, had moved into a tie with Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk and Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier with 63 points going into Friday night's games. Crosby had five goals and 15 assists in his previous 12 games.