Talk about a HUGE loss for the Pens

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Sidney Crosby suffered a high ankle sprain during the first period of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ game vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday and will be out indefinitely.

The Penguins said he will be re-evaluated by team doctors on Saturday, but a high ankle sprain typically can sideline a player for a month or longer. Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury sustained the same injury on Dec. 6 and has yet to return — and he may not be back in the lineup until next month.

That time frame would prevent him from taking part in the All-Star Game on Jan. 27 in Atlanta; Crosby was the leader in fan balloting for the starting lineup and was voted in as a starter for the second straight year.

''Obviously, it is a huge loss,'' coach Michel Therrien said after the 3-0 loss to the Lightning. ''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.''

Crosby was assisted off the ice after crashing into the rear boards leg-first at 7:37 of the first period. He was favoring his right leg as he left the ice, in visible pain.

Crosby and Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger became tangled near the right circle in the Lightning end, with Crosby swiping at the puck as he landed on the ice rear-end first. His momentum caused him to slam into the boards with his right leg, his left leg raised.

Crosby's right ankle appeared to twist to the side as that leg absorbed the impact of the collision. He initially got up and began to limp toward the bench, only to turn and enter a tunnel to the Penguins locker room. He pulled up in visible pain in the walkway and had to be helped the rest of the way.

''When I saw him leave the ice, I got the feeling it was very severe,'' Therrien said.

Prior to Friday, 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,'' linemate 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.''

Crosby, the NHL's scoring champion and MVP in 2006-07 at age 19, was tied with Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk, Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier and Calgary’s Jarome Iginla for the NHL scoring lead with 63 points going. Crosby had five goals and 15 assists in his previous 12 games, and the Penguins had gone 9-0-1 in their last 10 games before Friday to move into a tie with New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division.