Nick Foligno was anxious for a fresh start. And through 21 games, the Ottawa Senators winger hasn't disappointed.
Not only does Foligno feel pretty good about his personal performance so far — six goals and 10 points — he's also happy knowing that he has the support of head coach Paul MacLean.
“(Paul's) made me a better player,” Foligno said Tuesday. “He's made me aware of things that are lacking in my game, but also pointed out my strong points. He helps me work on the things that aren't great, but still points out my strengths.
“He has that player's feel to the game, he's played the game and knows what we're going through and that's only going to help a player improve.”
It's no secret that Foligno struggled under former coach Cory Clouston last year. The player often found himself in the dog house, leaving him to second-guess himself.
Foligno is flourishing under MacLean and feels a sense of relief knowing that every mistake won't be magnified. He's worked with the new coach on his skating and the need for him to keep moving in the offensive zone. It's made a difference.
“My expectation for Nick was to make sure he got skating and that he got to the net and give us a bit of a physical element,” said MacLean. “Not like Chris Neil, but to finish checks and make sure you're hard to play against and get to the net hard and hang around the net and he's done that to this point and he's had success doing that.
“I think he's worked real hard and his skating has come a ways and he's playing well for us.”
Foligno is in the final year of his contract and will become a restricted free agent in July. While he hopes to remain with the Senators, he's not dwelling on his contract status.
“I want to be here and be a big part of this team moving forward and hopefully that will work itself out,” said Foligno. “I just need to continue to play well and if you do that then all the numbers and everything takes care of itself.”
Now in his fifth season with the rebuilding Senators, Foligno is one of the more veteran players. He admits past experiences have allowed him to better deal with issues that can arise throughout a season.
“Whenever I see myself getting away from my game I can reflect and get on track and I can do it quicker,” he said. “I can draw on things that have gone well and things that haven't and grow from that.”
Foligno, who was married this summer, has embraced the community along with his wife Janelle. The two are extremely active with local charities and are more than happy to donate their time whenever possible.
“We're in a position where we can make a difference and it's a shame if you don't use that to your advantage,” said Foligno. “We really enjoy being involved and try to do as much as we can.”
Playing in Ottawa has also allowed his wife to further her own career as a teacher.
For many wives the reality of living in a different country often forces them to give up their own careers and Foligno believes Janelle has benefited from being able to maintain her own identity.
“She worked hard to become a teacher,” he said. “We're very fortunate that she can have her own life and we enjoy that aspect. It's been really good for us.”
Notes: Defenceman Matt Carkner (knee) continues to skate with the team and could return to the lineup in two weeks, according to MacLean. ... Chris Neil, who has missed the last five games with a sprained ankle, is scheduled to skate on Wednesday for the first time since suffering the injury. ... Goalie Craig Anderson says he feels fine after missing Sunday's game with a stiff neck. He'll likely get the call Friday in Pittsburgh.