Do Rangers have injury concern ahead of 2nd-round playoff series against Hurricanes?

NHL: New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It’s speculation at best because the New York Rangers are not going to discuss any injuries ahead of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Carolina Hurricanes. But is there reason to be concerned about Adam Fox?

The former Norris Trophy winner, presented to the top defenseman in the NHL, has had five days off this week since the Rangers finished their first-round sweep against the Washington Capitals on Sunday night.

The Rangers were off Monday and Tuesday, practiced the next two days and took Friday off, as well. Fox didn’t participate in either practice, so that’s five days off for him. So, what’s up?

Obviously, the Rangers aren’t saying.

“Maintenance,” Peter Laviolette explained after practice Thursday. “Just maintenance.”

That’s a popular catch-all piece of hockey vernacular used often by teams and coaches. It could relate to an injury, bumps and bruises, a mental break, really just about anything. But typically, if a player takes a maintenance day, it’s nothing major and he’s in the lineup the next game.

Such could be the case with Fox. But with three days off already on their schedule, it does raise a bit of a red flag that New York’s top defenseman was not on the ice for the other two days.

Now, perhaps he skated on his own or came in on an off day. There’s no way to know if that’s the case, nor will the Rangers say. So, again, speculation.

“When our players return to the ice, they return to the ice. And, so, if he’s cleared to practice, he’s cleared to practice,” is the most Laviolette elaborated on Fox’s situation.

Related: What first-round stats say about Rangers vs. Hurricanes

Should Rangers be concerned about Adam Fox’s health for next playoff series?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Adam Fox congratulates Igor Shesterkin after the Rangers’ 4-1 win in Game 1 against the Capitals — Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Fox was on the receiving end of a knee-on-knee collision that resulted in a tripping penalty assessed to Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen late in the first period of Game 4 on Sunday. The 26-year-old remained on the ice for a bit before skating it off. Though he missed the start of the power play, he was back on the ice when Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 16 seconds remaining in the period.

That, of course, led to Tom Wilson mugging Fox as the defenseman went to join the goal celebration. MSG hockey analyst Steve Valiquette famously called Wilson an “idiot” for his actions and putting the Rangers right back on the power play.

But what’s important here is that Fox appeared fine, played the rest of the game, assisted on an Artemi Panarin goal in the third period and led Rangers defensemen with 21:09 in ice time.

However, this is the second time Fox was on the receiving end of a knee-on-knee hit this season. Carolina forward Sebastian Aho clipped him on Nov. 2 and Fox missed 10 games with a lower-body injury.

It was obvious he sustained a substantial injury from the Aho hit. If he’s hurt now, it’d be less expected since Fox played out the rest of the 4-2 win Sunday.

Related: Rangers vs. Hurricanes: schedule, results, TV info for 2nd-round series

In his absence this week, the Rangers had Zac Jones slide into Fox’s spot alongside Ryan Lindgren at practice. Filip Chytil reportedly took his spot during power-play practice. Perhaps the latter is a sign that Fox is expected to play in Game 1 against the Hurricanes, because Erik Gustafsson likely would’ve moved up to the top unit to get some reps if that’s the way Laviolette believed they’d have to start the series.

The Rangers return to practice Saturday and Game 1 against the Hurricanes is Sunday, so it’ll be known soon enough if Fox is able to play. To say that Fox is an integral part of the Blueshirts’ lineup and success is underselling his value. Not only did Fox have 73 points in 72 games this season, including an NHL career-high 17 goals, but he logs major minutes and is a standout on both specialty teams, in particular as the quarterback on the power play.

In the first round against the Capitals, Fox had two assists. And earlier in the season, he scored the only goal in a 1-0 Rangers win in Raleigh against the Hurricanes on March 12.

Let’s see if this is all much ado about nothing or if the Rangers have an injury concern on their hands ahead of an expected difficult best-of-7 against the Hurricanes.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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