Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren sets before a face-off against the Lightning...

Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren sets before a face-off against the Lightning in the second period of an NHL game at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 7. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

DENVER – When Ryan Lindgren’s left knee buckled after he was checked into the boards by the Islanders’ Jean-Gabriel Pageau back on St. Patrick’s Day, it looked as though the rugged Rangers defenseman was going to be out for a long time, maybe through the rest of the regular season.

He missed four games.

Lindgren, the warrior who always gets battered and beat up on the ice, but always seems to come back before anyone expects him to, was in the lineup Thursday at Ball Arena when the Rangers visited the Colorado Avalanche. It was the opener of a two-game road trip.

“I guess, yeah,’’ Lindgren said, when asked if his speedy return surprised even him. “It was definitely quicker than I thought it was gonna be.

“In the moment it was terrifying, obviously. I thought it was gonna be very serious. And [I was] very fortunate to get the news back and hear it was only going to be short term.’’

“It really shouldn't surprise us with him,’’ coach Peter Laviolette said of Lindgren’s early return. “He seems to be back on the early side of everything. We just want to make sure that our players are healthy and they're coming back fully prepared to go, and not in any danger. And so I think just making sure we're doing the right things, but it's nice to have him out there.’’

Adam Fox, Lindgren’s regular defense partner, smirked when asked if he was surprised to have Lindgren back so soon.

“No,’’ Fox said. “No surprise.’’

But if Fox wasn’t surprised by Lindgren’s return, he certainly was happy to have his partner back by his side on the ice. The two, both 26, have been defense partners since they were 16 years old, and playing together in the U.S. National Team Development Program.

“It's obviously nice to have him back,’’ Fox said. “We have played a lot of games so far in the NHL together, and there’s always that sense of comfort and a sense of where the other person is out there on the ice.

“There's a little more predictability on the ice, so whether it be breakouts, retrieving pucks, I could always trust him to be the first touch back there [on] dump ins, and everything like that,’’ Fox said. “So I think, yeah, just that ability to feed off each other out there, I think, is important for anybody. Me, especially.’’

As much of a lift as it was to have Lindgren back in the lineup, though – and to have Jacob Trouba’s return seemingly imminent – the question had to be asked whether there was any consideration given to keeping Lindgren out a little while longer as a precaution.

The Rangers were 3-1 with Lindgren out of the lineup, including a wild 6-5 overtime win over Philadelphia in the last game on Tuesday, when Lindgren, Trouba (lower-body injury) and Erik Gustafsson (upper body) all were out. And that win clinched a playoff spot with 10 games remaining in the season.

Lindgren, though, said there was no consideration of him resting once he was healthy.

“I think there was a understanding that there was no rush,’’’ he said. “But also knowing that I'm feeling good right now, and there's really no point in staying out any longer, because I'm ready to go. So, yeah, I mean… we're in a good spot right now, but I'm ready to go. So why not play?’’

Laviolette also didn’t see the need to keep Lindgren out any longer than necessary.

“We will play players when they're ready to play,’’ he said. “To me, when a player is cleared by everybody, and deemed healthy, at that point, you're essentially healthy scratching him [if he’s left out of the lineup]. And so that doesn't make any sense to me either. [Lindgren]'s been out for a little bit. So when he is ready to come back in -- and Jacob as well -- they're cleared to play and they're good to go. And so that's how we approach it.’’

Notes & quotes: Center Alex Wennberg, who missed Tuesday’s game for what the Rangers called “personal reasons,’’ was on the trip and back in the lineup. Wennberg and his wife announced the birth of their daughter, Ivy, on Instagram Wednesday… With Wennberg back, rookie Matt Rempe was the odd man out in Laviolette’s forward rotation and was a scratch, along with D Brandon Scanlin, who made his debut Tuesday with Gustafsson out injured. .

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