Rangers defenseman Adam Fox speaks at a news conference on...

Rangers defenseman Adam Fox speaks at a news conference on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Credit: Sofia Sawchuk

GREENBURGH – So, how are you feeling these days, Adam Fox?

“Good, yeah, ready to go tomorrow,” he said.

Maybe. But it should be noted that Fox smiled before he answered that question after Rangers practice on Tuesday.

So the playoff-hockey-to-English translation seemed to be hinting that no, Fox, is not good, at least not fully so.

Sure, he is well enough to contribute when the Rangers host the Panthers on Wednesday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.

And he had better be if the Rangers are to advance further.

But the star defenseman from Jericho has not seemed quite himself since his right leg collided with that of the Capitals’ Nick Jensen in Game 4 of the first round.

The Panthers took two of three from the Blueshirts in the regular season but the Rangers are riding the red-hot goaltending of Igor Shesterkin. NewsdayTV's Jamie Stuart reports.

Fox stayed in that game and has played in all the others, but he had only a pair of assists in six games against the Hurricanes, none in the past four games.

He skipped two practices between the first and second rounds for what the team called “maintenance days.”

This is what the playoffs are about, though.

Players do what they can to play through injuries that do not require emergency surgery, then when the season is over, they admit what really was happening.

Sometimes this bit of hockey culture is taken to absurd extremes.

Then-captain Ryan McDonagh was a shell of himself in the 2015 conference final against the Lightning, after which it was revealed that he had a broken foot.

Fox is not in that dire a state – as far as we know – but as hockey players go he is a finely calibrated puck-managing artist. So being off even a little is . . . off.

The former Norris Trophy winner will do what he can, as a member of the team’s vaunted first power play unit and as one of the smoothest puck operators in the NHL.

On Tuesday, I asked a couple of teammates who were opponents of his until this season what makes him so difficult to play against.

“Just very elusive, very poised with the puck,” Jack Roslovic said. “You have to be very honest with him . . . He’s got a very skillful game but a very smart game.

“Even though he’s not the biggest guy out there, he seems to know his dimensions pretty well to be pretty elusive and get himself out of trouble.”

Said Erik Gustafsson, “He’s so patient with the puck. He can read plays very well. It’s fun to see him out there and fun to learn from him, too, how he creates stuff on the power play.

“He’s so calm all the time. He’s reading the play very well, looking off plays, too. Sometimes you can see that he’s put himself in trouble, but 99% of the time he finds a way to make the play.”

Fox still is only 26, but he has played in 40 postseason games, including 20 in 2021-22, when he had 23 points in the Rangers’ last run to a conference final.

So for both him and the team, this level is nothing new. Of course, it is not new to the Panthers, either. They were in the Cup Final last season.

“I don’t think there is anything that’s too much of a surprise to us at this point,” Fox said.

Having grown up a Rangers fan, Fox can relate to what is going on around the franchise this week as well as anyone in the locker room.

“When it gets to this point in the season, it feels so close and you can feel that within the fans and within the team,” he said.

“Obviously this year there’s been expectations for this group throughout the year. I think we’ve embraced them. Our goal always has been to win the Stanley Cup.

“Being 30 years since [the Rangers won], I think the fans get pretty hungry for it, especially in a big city like New York. But I think we’re hungry, too. We want to accomplish that.

“Getting this far, you don’t want to just say it was a good year. You want to finish it off. That’s our goal, for sure.”

As for Fox’s right leg, the Rangers can only hope his claim proves true: Good, and ready to go.


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