Adam Fox had an easier trip home than just about all of his teammates for the NHL’s three-day Christmas break. His defense partner, fellow 21-year-old rookie Ryan Lindgren, had to fly to Minneapolis, but Fox just had to drive out to Jericho, to spend Hanukkah with his family.
But for Fox and Lindgren, the break was a welcome respite from a schedule of games that has been heavy of late. The Rangers finished the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule with three games in four nights, a week after they’d played four in seven in a weeklong trip to the West Coast. Overall, the Blueshirts played 11 games over the last 22 days before the break, and 13 in 26.
“Yeah, I mean, it can be a grind,’’ Lindgren admitted of the NHL schedule.
“In terms of adjustment, it's obviously getting a little more comfortable game in and game out, but, physically, it starts to add up,’’ said Fox, who already has played more games this season (36) than he did all of last season with Harvard (33). “You're starting to get to that time where you’ve got to really try and focus and maintain on how you're feeling, and make sure you get enough sleep and all that stuff.’’
Both players say they’re holding up well, and both credited the Rangers’ training staff for doing things to make sure they stay hydrated and eat properly, and even giving them sleep aids on long flights to make sure they get enough rest. Both are experiencing the NHL schedule for the first time, with Fox having entered the league this season after playing college hockey for Harvard last year, while Lindgren is in his first full season, after getting a taste of the NHL with five games last season. He played in the AHL last season with Hartford.
“The AHL, I feel like, it's kind of more like a college schedule,’’ Lindgren said. “You're more playing on the weekends. They might throw a Wednesday game in there every now and then. Playing up here, you're playing . . . pretty much every other day.
“I feel like I'm doing well and I feel good, which is good,’’ he said. “But it's definitely different. “
The two long-time friends, who have been close since they played together with the U.S. National Team Development Program, have played together almost exclusively since Lindgren was called up from Hartford on Oct. 28, and while they have naturally both had their ups and downs, both have had strong seasons to this point.
Fox, whom the Rangers acquired from Carolina in a trade last April, has five goals and 12 assists and carries a plus-3 rating. His 17 points are seventh among rookies and third among rookie defensemen, behind Colorado’s Cale Makar, the favorite to win the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, and Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes.
Lindgren, who was acquired from Boston in the Rick Nash deal at the February 2018 trade deadline, is more of a stay-at-home, defensive defenseman. But he has a goal and seven assists and is a plus-5 in 26 games.