Foligno must memorize new line

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

Unlike other players, Nick Foligno is none too shy to stare squarely at — and openly discuss — his personal targets.

He is aiming for a job as a left winger on one of Ottawa’s top two lines next season. And to be that guy, he knows what he has to do.

“I think I can be a pretty solid power forward,” said Foligno, who was re-signed by the Senators Wednesday to a two-year, $2.4-million (all terms US) contract that leaves Peter Regin and Chris Campoli, both of whom are headed for arbitration, as the only two players from last season’s team still in need of a deal.

“I think I have that build, where I can be strong against the wall, power my way to the net ... just use my size and my strength a little bit more.

“If I do that, I don’t see why I can’t hit a 20-goal mark next year, or more. And have a 50-point season. Obviously, those are all things that will come into effect with the way I’m playing. But I definitely see myself attaining those goals and I’m going to push for that, for sure.

“Obviously, I’m going to be pushing for a Top 6 forward spot. That’s where I want to be. That’s where I envision myself.”

What Foligno sees himself, the organization also sees in him. But as of yet, he has shown only glimpses of his potential.

Picked in the first round (28th overall) by the Senators in 2006, Foligno is coming off a disappointing season in which he missed 20 games and wound up with only nine goals and 17 assists. Much more productivity was expected, based on the 2008-09 season, his first full campaign in the NHL, when a strong second half led him to 17 goals and 15 assists in 81 games.

Even when healthy, Foligno didn’t always have the confidence of Cory Clouston last season. His consistency was an issue with the coach. He played some on the second line, but just as much on the third and fourth.

Heading into camp — and barring a trade GM Bryan Murray really needs to make — Foligno will have a battle for positioning on his hands. Among the Top 6 frontmen will be Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and Alex Kovalev. Mike Fisher is almost certainly in that mix, unless Peter Regin is moved to centre. If Regin stays at left wing, where he performed admirably in the second half and the playoffs, there would appear to be no room at the inn for Foligno.

Unless he makes some for himself.

“I think competition is great,” said Foligno. “Peter Regin definitely came into his own last year. I kind of had a similar year the year before. I kind of turned it on at the end of the year.

“I’m hoping he can continue that. I’m sure he will. He’s a great player. It’s great for our team. We want our young guys to be great. It puts pressure on everyone to play at their best, because there are guys that can step in and do a job.

“I know I can do it as well.”

Foligno has spent much of his summer up in Sudbury, hanging out on the lake when he isn’t working out with his personal trainer and brother Marcus, a fourth-round pick of the Sabres. His off-season plan is to strengthen his legs, his quickness and his overall conditioning that he says was never terrible, “but as a young guy you need to improve it.”

Yes, he is young, still three months from his 23rd birthday, even though he seems like he’s been around a lot longer. And he is still learning. But he better get better fast. Rookies like Bobby Butler and Roman Wick should be pushing for work, with each making less than the $1.2-million cap hit on Foligno. And money is getting tight for Murray, who now only has about $2 million left for Regin and Campoli, if Jared Cowen makes the team.

“Obviously, last year was a tough year. I was inconsistent, with injuries ... and just the way I was playing,” said Foligno. “I want to be a consistent player. I’ve said that all along. I think it starts with the way I’ve been training this summer, just preparing myself in a different sense. I think it’s going to allow me to become a better player and to be the player I want to be.

“I know I can do it. I believe in myself. It’s just going to be a matter of going out there and working hard every day. Doing the things I know I can do.”

The things the Senators are counting on from him.


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