When Nick Foligno was traded to the Blue Jackets in July, he had a few short weeks to get everything together and get settled in his new home while trying to meet his new teammates.
A group of players got together for informal skates at the OhioHealth Ice Haus in August before the lockout, and as some looked elsewhere for options to play, the group slowly dwindled and Foligno himself had to find other places to skate.
Now that the team is beginning to reconvene in Columbus in preparation of the 2013 NHL season, Foligno is excited on two levels: one, the thrill of playing NHL hockey is on the horizon, and also, he feels "officially" part of the Blue Jackets after a practice today with eight teammates.
"Yeah, I really do (feel part of the Blue Jackets now)," Foligno told BlueJackets.com. "Now that I know I can go around the locker room and meet everybody again. I'm so happy to be here, and so excited for the season to start and I'm really looking forward to a good season here and having a lot of fun."
The 25-year-old forward was acquired shortly after free agency began in exchange for Marc Methot, and GM Scott Howson was attracted to Foligno's versatility and ability to play all three forward positions. He's coming off a career year with 15 goals and 47 points with the Ottawa Senators, and being in his mid-20s, Howson and the Blue Jackets feel Foligno's best hockey is ahead of him.
After a signing a three-year, $9.25 million contract with the Blue Jackets on July 6, Foligno is anxious to get back into game shape and prepare for what he hopes is a successful debut season in Columbus.
"Game speed is obviously something we're trying to get back up to as soon as possible," Foligno said. "I think that it'll come back quick; we're all excited to start playing. It's January now and we want the games to come.
"I don't think anyone's going to be too disappointed in a short training camp, knowing that the games are just around the corner."
With roughly two weeks between now and the expected start of the NHL regular season, Foligno said he and other players were encouraged at the condition they arrived in. Some players were overseas, others stayed home, but all of them managed to stay in top shape and be ready for the season.
Facing a compressed schedule, players already in game shape and in "hockey condition" should have a distinct advantage when the puck drops, Foligno said.
"The rest did a lot of guys good, in the sense that there were some banged-up bodies that got to heal by not playing," Foligno said. "Some guys that needed to play were able to stay in shape. I think it was mostly about what you needed at that time, and looking around, guys kept themselves in great shape.
"I'm just looking forward to playing."