Adam Fox of the Rangers celebrates his second-period power play goal...

Adam Fox of the Rangers celebrates his second-period power play goal against the Panthers at Madison Square Garden on March 23. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Adam Fox won’t win the Norris Trophy this season.

Instead, the award for the best defenseman in the NHL most likely will go to Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes, who is leading the position in scoring and having a fabulous season, or to Colorado’s Cale Makar, who is nipping at his heels in the scoring race among blueliners.

Fox, the Jericho native, probably will get some votes, as perhaps will the Islanders’ Noah Dobson. But missing a month, and 10 games, with a knee injury back in November torpedoed any real chance of Fox earning his second Norris.

However, as the regular season wraps up and the playoffs approach, there is no defenseman in the league who is playing better right now than the 26-year-old Fox. He enters Tuesday’s game against the desperate Islanders with 69 points in his 68 games (15 goals and 54 assists). And since the March 8 trade deadline, he’s had five goals and 15 assists (20 points) in 16 games.

In that same span, Hughes had four goals and 10 assists (14 points) in 13 games, and Makar was 2-12-14 in 14 games. And here are the most important numbers: The Rangers were 13-3 in that period, while Vancouver was 7-5-1 and Colorado 9-4-1. That means Fox has been putting up points and helping the Rangers tear up the league since the deadline (including a shootout win at Colorado two weeks ago).

“When you talk about Adam, it's not just about shooting the puck, it's about his playmaking. It's about his breakouts, it's about his skating, and attacking open ice,’’ Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said recently. “His defense has been excellent as well. And so . . . he seems like, more on point. Again, he was coming off a pretty substantial injury, too, and I do think that it takes a minute to get up to speed to get where you want to be. And it's towards the end of the season here. I can't help it that I think that factors into it as well.’’

Fox, who was injured in a Nov. 2 game against Carolina on a knee-to-knee hit by the Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho, openly acknowledges that he wasn’t the best version of himself in the first couple of months after returning from the injury. But he said he’s finally gotten over the effects of the injury, and with the playoffs approaching, he has been trying to ramp his game up over the last few weeks.

“It's a long season, and I missed some time with that injury,’’ Fox said. “[The games] all matter, but obviously there's ups and downs during the season — and yeah, I think as the season goes on, you want to get better and better as it goes along.

“And it's just funny — injury and all, even the start of the year feels so long ago,’’ he said. “Obviously these last few games gearing up for playoffs . . . you kind of want to be playing some good hockey this time of year.’’

Known more for his offensive prowess and his ability to quarterback the Rangers’ power play, Fox was called on to do more over the last month, with defensemen Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren and Erik Gustafsson missing time with injuries. During that span, Fox seemed to add a little more feistiness to his game. Over a four-game stretch from March 16-23, the 5-11, 182-pounder took at least one penalty in every game, something that seemed a little out of character for a guy who averages just over 28 penalty minutes per season. His 36 penalty minutes this season is a career high.

“I don't know, I think I try and play hard,’’ Fox said with a little grin when asked about his uptick in physical play. “Obviously, for me, it's not going to be hits like [Trouba] or [Will Cuylle] or [Matt Rempe] or those guys, but I think just trying to compete and win battles . . . sometimes it shows a little more with a few more hits here and there . . . I don't like the penalties. I try to stay out of the box, but I guess if you're trying to battle, I guess you're gonna take some.’’

As focused as he is these days on trying to get his own game — and the team’s — ready for the playoffs, Fox said he wasn’t especially looking forward to playing on Long Island for the first time in over a calendar year. His parents are still in the area, but other than that, a trip to UBS Arena just didn’t feel special. Most of his friends are in the city, he said, or otherwise not around anymore. So there’s not much for him to look forward to.

“It's no different than a lot of other places,’’ he said. “I mean, I went to some games [at Nassau Coliseum] growing up, but it’s obviously a different arena too.’’


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