If you're reading tea leaves from Thursday's practices during the second off day before Friday's Game 4 between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, you can expect minor changes for the Lightning and status quo for the Isles.
Both Thomas Hickey (from Brian Boyle) and Jonathan Drouin (from Hickey) were on the receiving end of big hits during Game 3, but neither is expected to miss any time as both were practicing and reported feeling fine on Thursday.
Nor were either in the mood to call the hits into question.
Drouin, in a Tampa Bay Times story about how dangerous he has been for the Lightning:
"I think I walked into that one more than he did anything dirty," Drouin said. "I had my head down. It's part of hockey, and it was a good hit."
"It happened so quick, I just felt a blind side, and to slow the replay down actually, not just watch it at full speed, but frame by frame, I couldn’t tell you and 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 yeah, that’s what got me, in the chin. It’s up to everyone else to decide that stuff. It really doesn’t matter anymore."
Islanders coach Jack Capuano stood by his emotional post-game reaction that the Boyle hit on Hickey was high -- he cited the blood coming out of Hickey's mouth -- but as Hickey said, it doesn't really matter.
All parties are expected to play in Game 4.
Injury Recoveries: Carle, Condra, Pulock?
For the Lightning, as detailed in the same Tampa Bay Times story on Drouin, defenseman Matt Carle and forward Erik Condra -- the victim of another big check, from Casey Cizikas, in Game 1 -- were full participants in practice Thursday and could be back in the lineup.
More important players Anton Stralman, Steven Stamkos and remain out.
For the Islanders, Anders Lee is in that latter category where he has no chance of appearing in this series. But Ryan Pulock is another story. His return from a first-round injury has been anticipated since the series switched back to New York.
Beat writers Brett Crygalis (Post) and Arthur Staple (Newsday) tweeted that Pulock was on the "fourth" pair in practice, an indication -- as with Ryan Strome skating on the "fifth" line -- that he was still on the outside looking in for Game 4.
But we'll see. Where as Strome's absence have been due to healthy scratch, Capuano has spoken openly about getting Pulock back in as soon as he's fully ready to go.
Is that Friday? He thinks it could be so, though he called it a "game-time decision" to Brian Compton at nhl.com:
"I'm feeling better," Pulock said Thursday. "Every day, it's a little better. Obviously I'm doing everything I can to speed up the recovery. As of right now, it's feeling pretty good."
In the same story Capuano downplayed the significance of Thursday's skate and said they'd see on Friday, as they don't want him in before he's 100 percent.
Oh, and Jaroslav Halak? Stop asking. He's not ready to appear anytime soon, and even if he were it wouldn't be without a disaster befalling Thomas Greiss, who has done well carrying the load.