Rookie defenseman Adam Fox, a lifelong Rangers fan from Jericho, had acknowledged that yes, it would be an unbelievable feeling to play his first NHL game in the Blueshirts’ uniform Thursday night.
“Yeah, it’s just a dream come true,’’ Fox had said Wednesday. “I’m trying not to overthink anything. I kind of have to treat it like it’s just another hockey game. Obviously, it’s not, but once the game gets going, I feel like I’ll get into it pretty quickly.’’
Things almost got off to a nightmare start for Fox and his defense partner, fellow 21-year-old rookie Libor Hajek. On the pair’s first shift, Hajek failed to handle Fox’s cross-ice pass and the puck bounced into the slot, with Jets forward Mason Appleton charging after it. Both Fox and Hajek scrambled to the middle to cut off Appleton and the three players crashed into goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, knocking the net off its supports.
Coach David Quinn said Fox did look nervous at the start of the game. “But I thought he got better and better as the game went on, and listen, a kid from New York, a season ticket-holder his whole life, I can’t even imagine what was going through his mind when this game started,’’ Quinn said. “It’s an exciting night, probably more so for the Fox family, more than any player on our team, but I thought he settled in as the night went on.’’
Fox’s dad, Bruce — who stayed away from his son’s first preseason game at the Garden — was in the stands along with his mom, Tammy, and a total of about 20 family and friends, according to Fox. He played 14 shifts for a total of 12:24, was not on the ice for any goals and was credited with one blocked shot.
Why no captain?
Quinn was asked why the Rangers chose not to name a captain for the second straight season. “We just feel we’re in the best position right now to go with the four assistants [Mika Zibanejad, Marc Staal, Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast],’’ Quinn said. “We’re very comfortable with where we’re at with our leadership.’’ . . . Forwards Greg McKegg and Micheal Haley were the two scratches as Quinn opted to dress swingman Brendan Smith at right wing on a fourth line with Lias Andersson and Brendan Lemieux. Smith, a defenseman by trade, played defense on the penalty kill . . . Andersson wiped out when he skated onto the ice during player introductions before the game.