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Rangers' Mika Zibanejad says slow start was due to COVID-19

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad skates against the Bruins

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad skates against the Bruins during the third period of an NHL game Saturday in Boston. Credit: AP/Charles Krupa

Mika Zibanejad finally admitted to the media Monday that yes, the slow start to his season was largely due to his having had COVID-19 in training camp.

"It was a unique situation, obviously, having COVID, and having one practice before the season really started,’’ Zibanejad said as the Rangers cleaned out their lockers and had their exit meetings. "I think I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t, that I was feeling good, and I was feeling fine. But it wasn’t easy. I didn’t really feel up to speed after that, and it took me a while to kind of get back just physically and mentally.

"And I didn’t want to have anything to, to kind of have an excuse or whatever,’’ he said. "I didn’t want to tell myself that and kind of just give myself an excuse.’’

Zibanejad started the season with two goals and six assists in his first 22 games but finished with a team-high 24 goals and 26 assists in 56 games. He was one of three players to play in all 56 games.

Lindgren signs extension

The Rangers announced that they have signed defenseman Ryan Lindgren to a three-year extension. Cap Friendly said the deal is for a total of $9 million, a per-season cap hit of $3 million. Lindgren, who spoke before the deal was announced, also was named the winner of the Rangers’ Player’s Player Award, as voted by his teammates.

"It’s a huge honor,’’ Lindgren said.  "Having guys on the team vote for you — and, you know, obviously there’s a lot of guys that could have easily won this award. I’m very honored.’’

Lindgren missed the final five games of the season with an upper-body injury but said he is "feeling better each and every day."

Fox, Smith win awards

Jericho’s Adam Fox was named the team’s MVP and Brendan Smith was named the winner of the John Halligan Good Guy Award, in recognition of his cooperation with the media. Both awards were voted on by the local media. Colin Blackwell was voted by the media as the team’s nominee for the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey.

"To be voted MVP by the media for this team, it’s definitely special,’’ Fox said. "I think everyone on this team just tries to play well and help the team win in any way they can. And for me to get recognized like that is special.’’

Kreider: Frustrating injury

Chris Kreider, who missed the season’s final six games, said he had "an impact-based injury’’ that was a lower back-related issue. He said the timing of his injury "was one of the more frustrating things that I’ve ever dealt with in my pro career.’’

New York Sports