BOSTON — Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos could miss the remainder of the regular season after breaking the tibia bone in his lower right leg during Monday's 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Stamkos will undergo surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital on Tuesday and is out indefinitely, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website, the normal recovery takes 4-6 months, which under the long-term scenario would run into May.
“The medical staff in Boston, in consultation with our team physicians, has made the decision to surgically repair the injury,'' Yzerman said in a statement. “The procedure is expected to take place (Tuesday) 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.''
According to AAOS.org, the lower leg is comprised of two bones: the tibia and fibula. The tibia, known commonly as the “shinbone” is the larger of the two. It supports most of a person's weight and is an important part of the knee joint and ankle joints.
While a report from Sportsnet in Canada suggested Stamkos did not suffer an “overly complicated'' break and could return before the Olympics in February, a team spokesperson said more would be known after the surgery is performed.
With Tampa Bay playing in Montreal on Tuesday night, and the team also losing defensemen Sami Salo and Keith Aulie to injury during Monday's game, the Lightning are expected to make a call up from Syracuse in the American Hockey League.
Despite the injury, Stamkos appeared in good spirits Monday night, sending out a message via his Twitter account: “Thanks to all my family, friends, and fans for all the well wishes! I will be back as soon as possible !!''
Stamkos was injured with 7:11 left in the second period when, skating toward the Lightning goal on a defensive backcheck, he became tangled with Boston defenseman Dougie Hamilton and he lost an edge on his skate blade near the crease. As Stamkos fell with his feet toward the net, his right leg crashed into the post with his shin taking the brunt of the blow.
Replays showed his lower leg bent back as he made contact.
Stamkos tried to get back on his skates, but was in immediate distress. He fell face first back to the ice in front of the Lightning net and pounded his fist into the ice.
“He was obviously in pain,'' said Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback, who was closest to Stamkos. “I kind of just saw that he tried to get back up and then went down. You could tell it was not good.''
Lindback immediately waived for Lightning medical trainer Tom Mulligan, who rushed onto the ice. After a few moments, a stretcher was brought out. Mulligan tried to immobilize Stamkos' right leg before Stamkos was placed on a long board. Mulligan kept the leg raised until assistant medical trainer Mike Poirier found something to prop the leg up as Stamkos was taken by stretcher to an ambulance, which transported him to Massachusetts General.
“He was back-checking really hard and flying, beat me right to the net,” Hamilton said. “I don't know what happened, but when you're going that speed into anything, something's bound to happen like that. ...It's unfortunate and kind of sad to see that happen.''
During the play that led to the injury, Stamkos was directing defensemen Victor Hedman and Sami Salo to take the two attacking Boston players along the boards while racing to catch Hamilton on his way to the net. Stamkos looked to be attempting to stop near the side of the crease and was bumped from behind by Hamilton.
“It's an unfortunate accident,'' Yzerman said. “He bumped with Dougie Hamilton and got off-balance trying to stop and ran into the goalpost and, unfortunately, for whatever reason at that certain angle, the post didn't come off.''
Stamkos, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2008 and a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the league's leading goal scorer, entered Monday's game tied for the league lead with 14 goals and 23 points and riding a six-game goal-scoring streak, one game short of tying his career high. His 14 goals accounted for 26.9 percent of the team's total through 17 games.
Stamkos has not missed a game since Jan. 29, 2009, a streak of 344 consecutive games that will end Tuesday in Montreal.
“It's a big loss, but you know, we've been winning as a team and we're going to have to find a way to continue doing that,'' Lightning captain Marty St. Louis said. “We're going to have to raise our game collectively. You don't replace Stammer, but the guys are going to have to step up.''