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Hickey likely for Game 4, Islanders aim to tie series

New York defenseman took big hit at end of Game 3 against Tampa Bay

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- By the time New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey realized what was happening, it was too late.

Moments after Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brian Boyle knocked Hickey to the ice at the Islanders blue line, Boyle was celebrating after scoring at 2:48 of overtime to give the Lightning a 5-4 win Tuesday and a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

Hickey addressed the media Thursday for the first time since then and said he will ready to play when New York tries to even the best-of-7 series in Game 4 at Barclays Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I got up and looked to my stick and grabbed my stick, and then it was … he just put the puck in the net," Hickey said.

"It happened so quick. I just felt a blindside, and I think if you slow the replay down actually and not just watch it in full speed, sort of frame by frame, I couldn't tell you. I don't want to get into it if it was chest-first or chin-first. I'm not going to talk about that too much. But that's what got me; it was in the chin. It's up to everyone else to decide that stuff. It really doesn't matter anymore."

Video: TBL@NYI, Gm3: Hickey delivers hit to Drouin

The Islanders were 38.4 seconds away from a win until Nikita Kucherov tied the game to send it to overtime. Hickey, who has been one of the Islanders' more reliable defensemen in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, said he went through concussion protocol and deemed himself ready for Friday.

"It certainly didn't feel good," said Hickey, who has a goal and four assists in nine games this postseason. "I think losing the game is the thing that really stings. I certainly wanted to make sure I was OK, but I feel good today."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano was fuming after the loss, believing Boyle targeted Hickey's head and a penalty should have been called. But play continued with Hickey lying on the ice, and Boyle won it when the puck caromed off the boards behind the net to his stick, and he quickly roofed it over goalie Thomas Greiss. The NHL Department of Player Safety did not review the hit for possible discipline.

Hickey didn't want to elaborate Capuano's thoughts Thursday.

"I think as a group, we're focusing on moving on," Hickey said. "I'll let him speak for I guess the team. It's a long series, and there's plays that you agree with and you don't. We're on both sides of those. That's part of the game, we'll move on, but I think the statement he made, we'll just go with that. I don't need to say much."

Video: FLA@NYI, Gm3: Hickey lights the lamp for OT winner

Hickey had a big hit of his own earlier in Game 3; with 14:22 remaining in the second period, he checked Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin just as the latter crossed New York's blue line. Drouin returned to the game in the third period.

Given how much players see each other in a playoff series, Hickey expects the physicality to increase. But he warned that he and his teammates can't get caught up in it, especially with the Islanders trying to avoid falling behind 3-1.

"Every series is different," Hickey said. "It gets more chippy, but at the same time, there's less time for retribution and to worry about things like that. You need to play hockey. The team that plays the best hockey is going to win. But I think in every playoff series, things develop along the way. At the end of the day, it comes down to the hockey part of it."

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