SUNRISE, Fla. — Defenseman Thomas Hickey played in the Islanders’ 2-1, four-round shootout win over the Panthers on Thursday night at BB&T Center after being a healthy scratch the previous six games.
But Hickey’s return to the lineup could be short-lived. He has yet to regain his status as a regular after missing 29 games with a head injury from Dec. 18-Feb. 23.
Coach Barry Trotz opted to sit Johnny Boychuk, most likely to give him a rest before the NHL playoffs open on Wednesday, and paired Hickey with Nick Leddy.
Hickey, who logged 19:10, took the Islanders’ only two penalties, a hooking call in the second period and a tripping call in the third that led to the Panthers’ power-play goal.
“I thought he played well,” Trotz said. “I didn’t have any issues other than the two penalties.”
Hickey has been a regular for the Islanders since the former fourth overall pick in 2007 was claimed off waivers from the Kings on Jan. 15, 2013. He has four assists in 40 games, by far his fewest with the Islanders.
“It probably is a little frustrating sometimes,” Trotz said. “Every defenseman brings a little bit of a different element. Thomas, there’s some duplication in terms of style and roles. He’s in a group of guys that have similar roles, and some guys are a little bit ahead of him right now.”
Goalie Robin Lehner participated in the sparse optional morning skate after missing Wednesday’s practice because of soreness . C Valtteri Filppula (left elbow) also participated . . . C Mathew Barzal’s assessment of Thursday’s win: “It was a sloppy game out there. The ice was terrible. There were a lot of turnovers from both sides.” . . . F Ross Johnston and Ds Luca Sbisa and Dennis Seidenberg remained healthy scratches.