Speaking on an NHL-sponsored Zoom call Monday with fellow rookie defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, the Rangers’ Adam Fox was asked about the physical pounding his defense partner, Ryan Lindgren, has taken this season.
“He had a streak of getting pucks to the face, high sticks — and it wasn’t even the way he plays, it was just unfortunate bounces,’’ Fox said. “So his face probably needed this quarantine a little bit to heal up.’’
The good-natured gibe was nothing more than Fox showing a little love and admiration for his partner. The two 22-year-olds — whose close friendship goes back to the days when they played together as teenagers in the U.S. national team development program — developed into the Rangers’ most reliable defense pair in the course of their 58-plus games together.
The two were nearly inseparable after Lindgren got called up from Hartford on Oct. 28. Coach David Quinn put them together, and they remained together for 58 of the 60 games Lindgren played.
Fox recalled sending a pass to Lindgren that hopped over his stick and got Lindgren crunched by an opponent. “That was his first shift as my ‘D’ partner,’’ Fox said. “So we’ve come a long way from there.
“He thinks the game really well, and he complements me so much. And he’s willing to stay back and make smart outlet passes. And he’s a tough guy. And I think the way I play, he just suits me really well as a ‘D’ partner.’’
The way Fox, a Jericho native, played this season had prompted talk about him as a candidate for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year, along with Hughes and Makar.
Before the NHL paused March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Fox was fifth in scoring among rookies with 42 points (Hughes was first with 53 and Makar second with 50). He was first among first-year players in plus-minus at plus-22 (Makar was plus-12, Hughes minus-10).
Monday’s call was moderated by NHL senior vice president of communications John Dellapina, who asked the three about their favorite player when they were growing up. Fox’s was Nicklas Lidstrom, though he loved watching tape of former Ranger Brian Leetch.
All three chose Edmonton’s Connor McDavid as the toughest forward to defend, and all identified Montreal’s Shea Weber as the opposing defenseman they’d least like to see winding up for a shot as they battled in front of the net.
Dellapina asked Fox about the challenge of killing a penalty and staring at a one-time shot by Alex Ovechkin.
“I might try and throw Lindgren there,’’ he said, “because he’ll eat anything, really.”