The New York Rangers will play as scheduled tonight, but due to their placement in the COVID protocol, they won’t have the services of Phillip Di Giuseppe, Pavel Buchnevich, or, most importantly, Adam Fox. The team has recalled Tarmo Reunanen from the Hartford Wolf Pack to make his NHL debut in place of Fox, while Julien Gauthier and Brett Howden will get back into the lineup for the other two.
Losing Fox is a huge blow, given he leads the team in average ice time by nearly three minutes. The 22-year-old defenseman has 15 points in 26 games as he continues the stellar play that landed him fourth in Calder Trophy voting last season. There aren’t many players in the entire NHL that carry as much responsibility as Fox does for the Rangers, who play him heavily on both special teams and are even starting him in the defensive zone more often this season. It’s not clear if he has tested positive for coronavirus, but if his absence is a lengthy one, it could spell trouble for a team that is already sitting just under .500.
In Reunanen though, there is a good bit of intrigue. The 23-year-old defenseman was a fourth-round pick of the team in 2016 but didn’t come to North America until this season. He has performed quite well over the last two seasons in Finland and has five points in his first eight games for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL. At some point, the team was going to need to give him a chance in the NHL to see what they have, though obviously losing Fox wasn’t what they had envisioned.
It will be interesting to see how much ice time they give the rookie in his debut, or how much they shelter him with easier deployment. The team is coming off a big win against the Boston Bruins and are still just seven points out of the final playoff spot in the East Division, even though they hold a record of 11-12-3. With the Jack Johnson experiment potentially over—the veteran cleared waivers earlier today—and Tony DeAngelo still removed from the team, it would be a huge development for them to find something in Reunanen.