Travis Hamonic hadn't been around his Islanders teammates much during the past two weeks while he tried to rehab a left knee injury he confirmed Tuesday was a Grade 3 torn medial collateral ligament.

Hamonic said he wanted to steer clear of the guys who were playing, "let them do their thing." It may have been more for Hamonic's sake than his teammates' -- the emotional Isles defenseman was heartbroken over not being able to play in what would have been his second postseason.

Even worse, seeing how the Islanders got to Game 7 and lost by only a goal, Hamonic knows that he would have made an enormous difference.

"It was really devastating news for me," Hamonic said Tuesday when the first group of Islanders gathered at Nassau Coliseum for exit interviews with the coaching and front-office staff. "There were many sleepless nights."

The hit Hamonic took from the Penguins' Rob Scuderi in the first period of a 3-1 Islanders' win on April 10 looked bad right away, with the normally stoic Hamonic hobbling straight to the bench and off to the locker room.

He said the original timetable was six to eight weeks, which would have ended his season even if the Islanders had made the Stanley Cup Final. Instead, crediting the Isles' medical and training staff, Hamonic hoped to return by the end of the second round -- which put even more urgency into watching his teammates try to get past the Capitals without him.

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"I felt like I was going to have a heart attack last night, I was on pins and needles this whole series," he said. "You're so used to being out there, it's way more nerve-wracking watching the games. You play all season, you battle to get to this point with the guys in that room, you want to do anything you can to go to war with them."

The injuries to Hamonic, Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Calvin de Haan, who suffered a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder on a hit in Game 5, were ultimately too much to overcome.

Rookies Matt Donovan and Scott Mayfield played admirably in their absence and Brian Strait and Thomas Hickey stepped up to fill the void, but the cautious way the Islanders played in Game 7, with only 11 shots on goal and barely any transitional play from their defense, showed the wear of losing three regulars.

"Travis was probably our best defenseman all year," Strait said. "And with our power play struggling, having a guy like Lubo back there would have helped . . . It was a lot to handle."

Hamonic called Tuesday a "weird day," being in the Coliseum one last time before he heads to Winnipeg for the offseason. Not playing in the regular-season finale or any of the last playoff games in the building he's called home for four seasons is not strange, just sad.

"The fans were unbelievable this season, the respect we have for them is unreal," he said. "It just would have been nice to be out there . . . We've got a big vendetta going for next year. This just kicks off the offseason to get ready for next season. We have a lot more hockey to play and we're excited with the group we have."

Ratings record. Game 7 of the Islanders-Capitals first-round playoff series Monday night, simulcast on MSG and MSG Plus, set records for Islanders ratings and viewership on the network in records that date 25 years. The game, which the Capitals won, 2-1, averaged 4.47 percent of New York-area homes and 459,786 viewers. In the key demographic of adults ages 25-54, the game averaged a 3.31 rating -- better than those of Monday night's Yankees, Mets and Nets games combined.