MONTREAL — Nick Foligno showed up at training camp with a clear head and one goal.
He wants to be a contributor every game.
So far, so good. The Senators winger, who will return to the lineup Saturday against the Canadiens at Scotiabank Place, has been the club’s best player in the first week of camp.
Last season, however, was a far different story.
While he might not have realized it at the time, the 22-year-old Foligno was suffering emotionally when he reported for training camp last September after spending most of the off-season with his mother Janis, who ultimately lost her battle with cancer.
“I’m a big family person and my mother was a huge inspiration and supporter of my life,” said Foligno, who had a goal in each of his first two exhibition games. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t weigh on me. But I don’t want to use that as an excuse.
“Part of the job is being able to block those things out. Sometimes you don’t realize how much it affects you, and having never gone through that, I really didn’t know how to handle it. I had some great guys in the locker room who helped me. Guys I consider friends.”
Losing a parent is never easy, and Foligno was far too young to have to say goodbye to one of his biggest fans. He turned to teammates like Chris Neil, whose mother Bonnie died tragically in a car accident, Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson for support.
Last summer was a blur for Foligno between visits to the hospital and the grieving period after Janis passed away in July 2009. This year, the family gathered in Sudbury to help each other through the off-season and continue the healing process.
“I didn’t really want to leave my mother’s side (last summer). This year, I was able to focus on me and what I need to do. I don’t blame myself. I needed to be as close to her as possible,” said Foligno.
“I needed to focus on working out hard (this summer). I had a good summer mentally and physically. I was able to reconnect with a lot of family and spend some good, quality time and have some closure. We were able to help each other heal. It’s an ongoing process, but I feel I’m a lot better mentally, physically and emotionally.”
That improvement should pay dividends on the ice.
“Last year, I was still mourning when I came back here and I didn’t really have the focus I needed to have,” said Foligno, who had nine goals and 17 assists in 61 games last season. “It just started from the beginning of the year and dragged on throughout the year.
“This year, I feel like I know what I want to do and how I need to play. I want to get back to the player I know I can be. I’m feeling good now.”
This ’n’ that
The Senators will just about be down to their final roster by the time they face the Rangers in back-to-back games next weekend. “We might have two or three extra guys, but that would be about it,” said Senators coach Cory Clouston ... Former Ottawa G Alex Auld started for the Habs Friday night. His mask features a picture of Patrick Roy winking at Tomas Sandstrom during the 1993 Stanley Cup final against the Kings. It also has pictures of Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante. “I wanted to honour the history,” said Auld ... Montreal fans got their first look at prospect Lars Eller, who was acquired from the Blues in exchange for G Jaroslav Halak. Eller is a former teammate of Ottawa D Erik Karlsson in Frolunda.
Clearing the puck
RW Alex “L’Artiste” Kovalev was roundly booed when he touched the puck ... Expect to see captain Daniel Alfredsson, C Jason Spezza and D Sergei Gonchar make their pre-season debuts Saturday at Scotiabank Place. Clouston said former 67’s F Corey Cowick will see action in an exhibition game ... Ottawa D Eric Gryba, who made his debut in a Senators uniform Friday night, missed a hit along the boards on Max Pacioretty in the first and then fought Ryan White.
makes you go hmmm ...
The string of bad luck continues for Ottawa G Mike Brodeur. He was scheduled to dress as the backup Friday to Pascal Leclaire, but didn’t make the trip because of a sore back. That meant rookie Robin Lehner was on the bench. Brodeur also missed his chance to play 30 minutes last Tuesday in Toronto because of a stomach ailment. It’s doubtful he’ll see any action before being sent to the AHL ... Anybody worried about the results in pre-season needs to take the advice of Montreal G Carey Price and just “chill.” Nobody booed Auld after he gave up a bad first goal to Fisher.
The last word
Fisher appears with bride Carrie Underwood in the video for her hit Mama’s Song. The song is essentially about Underwood telling her mother not to worry because she’s found the right man. Fisher said the video was shot this summer in Nashville. “It was fun — nice to be part of her world a little bit,” said Fisher. “They are long days. That video, we worked until 4:30 a.m. It was kind of a long, long day. We worked through the night. She does it all the time. They are long days and it’s tedious.” How’s this for scheduling? The Senators are in Toronto Nov. 2 to face the Leafs, and Underwood plays the Air Canada Centre Nov. 3.