Richards leaves game against Leafs with leg injury

TORONTO (AP) _ Tampa Bay Lightning center Brad Richards left
Monday night's 6-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs with an
apparent injury to his left leg.

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

"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.