PITTSBURGH — Mike Foligno knows what his oldest son is going through. Almost.
“He told me he (once) went 17 games,” Senators winger Nick Foligno said of the longest slump his father remembers having in a 15-year, 1,018-game NHL career. “So I beat him, but it’s not one I’m proud of.”
Nick Foligno’s goal-less drought has reached 22 games — he still hasn’t scored this season — in what stands as the biggest individual disappointment for the Senators thus far. Foligno, who led the team with four goals during the pre-season, had 17 two years ago and nine in an injury-plagued 2009-10.
His goal was to surpass the 20-goal mark this season, and the team was counting on him to do it.
“He says simplify your game, get back to doing what you were doing a couple of years ago, or even last year,” Nick said of dad’s advice. “(He said) just play the game.”
Foligno has played a lot. He’s averaging 14:25 of ice time per game, and he’s accumulated more than a half-hour of power-play time.
Yet he only has five assists along with the goose egg under the ‘G’ column.
Foligno says for all the close calls, all the shots he thought were going in and didn’t, he’s learned to “just laugh off” his bad luck.
“It’s to a point now where you’ve just got to laugh. If you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry,” he said. “I know it’s not going to last forever.
“I obviously care a lot. I want to help this team. So I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. But I don’t think it’s affecting me in a negative way. I think I’m professional enough to know you have to leave it at the rink.
“But absolutely, I’m trying to figure out ways to score and help this team.”
Foligno will be playing on what Cory Clouston termed the “third line” with Chris Kelly and Chris Neil when the Senators tackle the Penguins Friday, and the coach expects offensive contribution from the unit.
“It would be nice to get that one,” said Foligno. “I feel it’s coming. When it does, I’m sure hopefully more will follow. It’s funny how the game goes sometimes.”
Foligno gets asked about the slump away from the rink. But in a hockey market like Ottawa, he expects that.
“It’s blown up a little more in this kind of scenario,” he said. “It’s part of the job, it’s part of where you live. I’d rather have people care about it than not care about it at all.
“People are going to talk about it and ask questions, but I believe in myself. I think that’s the biggest thing. You need to have self-confidence and know that you’re going to go out there and do a good job, whether it’s on the scoreboard or just playing good hockey.”
Keep his on-ice struggles from becoming all-consuming is a challenge he can handle.
“There’s so many other things in life. I’m getting married, so that’s a distraction on its own ... kind of a nice one,” he said. “That’s where you have to be professional about it and have that divide. I’m learning, obviously. When you’re not contributing the way you want, you’re thinking about it. I can’t let it eat me up.
“Things will turn themselves around. They always do.”