Empty-net bounce lifts Foligno's spirits

Senators forward Nick Foligno battles with Capitals forward Matt Hendricks at Scotiabank Place in...

Senators forward Nick Foligno battles with Capitals forward Matt Hendricks at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ont., Feb. 22, 2012. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:26 AM ET

OTTAWA - Many of the witnesses at Scotiabank Place had themselves a little chuckle when Washington’s Mathieu Perreault scored a goal off his tongue Wednesday night.

Nick Foligno wasn’t one of them.

“I told the guys I would have taken one off the face, it didn’t matter,” said Foligno. “Obviously, you don’t like to see that, but I don’t think he’s too mad he scored.”

Foligno was getting a little frustrated because he couldn’t.

After going 18 games without a goal, Foligno finally picked up unlucky No. 13 of the season when he fired the puck into the back of the net from centre ice, with Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth on the bench for an extra attacker. He was not free of anxiety watching the shot go in, however, as it first hit the pipe.

“I thought, if this thing bounces off the post and out, I’m going to freak out here,” joked Foligno. “Luckily it went post and in and helped the team win.”

Foligno is hoping his fortunes have now turned. He has seen such goals work that way in the past.

“For sure it happens,” he said. “Even one off the shin pad, one off the back, it doesn’t matter. It just seems to get guys on a roll, get confidence. Hopefully that’s the same thing for me.

“I don’t feel I’ve lost any confidence. I feel I’m still playing pretty well. But you want to be able to help the team in the scoring role as well. That’s something I pride myself on and hopefully many more goals to come.

“It’s always in the back of your mind when you’re not scoring. You’re wondering why you have chances and they’re not going in. It was nice to have the goalie not there to be able to put one in.

“Sometimes the game is really funny like that. It’s so mental, and confidence is a huge thing. Hopefully that builds a lot for me, and I can get on a roll for the guys.”

TOASTING KONOPKA

Like Chris Phillips, Zenon Konopka is expanding his horizons. In fact, the two could soon become business partners. While Phillips has a new micro-brew pub called The Big Rig slated to open in Ottawa this spring, on Thursday Konopka launched ZK28, a new wine, bearing his signature brand.

“We have to have a talk here,” Phillips said, chuckling. “Do a little cross-marketing.”

Konopka’s wine will be available in LCBOs soon — probably at $13.99 a bottle — but first it will be available in local restaurants or by following keys on his website, Zk28wines.com.

“I’ve been approached for a while about doing a wine label, and I always said it had to make sense, it had to make sense with something going to charity,” said Konopka, who grew up in the wine region that is Niagra-On-The-Lake. “So we’ve teamed up with (former NHLer) Keith Primeau and stopconcussions.com. Obviously, we’ve got a big issue with concussions, not just with our sport, but other sports in the major leagues and minors, so a buck off each bottle will go directly to stopconcussions.com. All money raised on Thursday night (at the launch) will go to stopconcussions.com. So it’s a good way to enjoy some good Canadian wine and give back to a good charity.”

Konopka, who also has his hand in numerous other businesses, said getting into winemaking was a natural for him.

“I grew up on a farm, we grew grapes and we had vineyards, so I kind of understood how the process of wine was made,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a good business, and it’s something where we’re testing the waters and possibly expanding from there.

“I enjoy talking about wines and tasting wines.”

As the NHL’s most frequent fighter, you’d think he’d be more of a beer guy. Phillips will soon have a beer named after him ... will there soon be a ZK28 beer, too?

“It’s on the horizon,” laughed Konopka.

GOOD CALL

It was just over a year ago that Chris Neil asked Senators management not to make him part of the turnover that saw veterans Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Chris Campoli and Brian Elliott traded before the deadline. Neil said he wanted to stay in Ottawa and be “part of the solution.”

He had only an inkling that things would correct themselves as quickly as they have.

“When we came into camp the coaching staff made it clear we wanted to get better every day, and we’ve done that for the most part this year,” said Neil, who has nine goals and 12 assists to go along with his 103 penalty minutes in the resurgence. “We show up, we care for one another, we’re a tight-knit group. I think that says a lot about our team, the makeup of our team. When we put that jersey on, we’re going out playing for one another, not individual stats.”

Neil said he had faith in what GM Bryan Murray was doing.

“You see the young kids coming up, Zack Smith, Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Bobby Butler ... you see what they’re capable of doing,” he said. “As far as everyone calling it a rebuild year, our management knew what we had in the minors and the guys that were coming up. They drafted well, and that says a lot about the organization.”

Never did he believe the Senators would be a cellar-dweller in 2011-12.

“No, I think coming in there was no pressure on us,” he said. “Everyone had us pegged last and we had something to prove. We proved something. We’ve got a lot more to prove still.”


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