Despite clean hit, Rangers’ Ryan Lindgren says he respects Avalanche’s Nazem Kadri for fighting him

NEW YORK – Fresh off of getting stitches under his right eye and spending his off day at an NHL Department of Player Safety hearing, Ryan Lindgren was surprisingly sympathetic toward his attacker.

The rookie defenseman put a reverberating hit on Joonas Donskoi during Tuesday's 5-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche — a hit that left Donskoi injured but was later deemed legal by the league — and was immediately run down by a swinging Nazem Kadri.

"I respect guys who protect their teammates and stand up for their teammates," Lindgren said Thursday at Madison Square Garden. "Obviously, him and their team probably didn’t see it as a clean hit, so for him to come at me like that, I personally don't have a problem with it."

The league's Department of Player Safety ruled that, "While there was significant head contact on this play, Lindgren took a proper angle of approach, did not extend outward or upward and hit through Donskoi’s core."

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Rangers coach David Quinn called it a "textbook check," and Lindgren said he was aiming for Donskoi's chest — not his head — which is what players are taught to do.

"It's happening so fast," Lindgren said. "He's just flying on the wall and I'm trying to cut him off at the blue (line), so yeah, it happens quickly. I guess on my part, I'm just trying to make sure I keep my elbow down and hit him legally."

"You never want to hurt a player," the 21-year-old added. "I hope the best for him, and hopefully he recovers quickly. Obviously, I never want to see that for a player, but I thought I did a good job of trying to keep it clean."

Lindgren didn't play in the final two periods after the fight with an "upper-body injury," but he's expected to be back in the lineup for Thursday's 7 p.m. ET home game against the New Jersey Devils.

New York Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren leaves the ice after a fight with Nazem Kadri. (Photo: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

He's one of the few players on the Rangers who brings the big-hit element — an element Quinn has stressed his team needs.

"If the league made a different decision, I’d still want him to play with that type of physicality and that edge," Quinn said.

But Quinn, like Lindgren, says he respects Kadri for dropping the gloves.

"I’m glad that they got the instigator (penalty), but I certainly understand the response, the emotion," Quinn said. "I certainly like our guys to want to protect their teammates. I know it was a clean hit, but I think during the course of the game, it's hard to judge whether it was a clean head or not. I think people react to the result immediately."

These hockey guys are a rare breed.

They might be the only athletes who can get punched in the head doing something within the rules and still accept blame.

"I kind of saw it out of the corner of my eye going back in the zone that someone was coming at me a little bit," Lindgren said. "It was kind of dumb by me. I’ve got to be a little smarter, knowing that someone’s going to probably come after me with a hit like that."

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