Nick Foligno was asked to slide into the center role on the second line against the New Jersey Devils Saturday night. Just as he’s done with any task he’s been assigned this season, he gave the coaching staff all they could’ve asked for.
In his second game back from a frightening neck injury and not having played center since his days in Ottawa, Foligno was a dominant force with a power play goal and an assist.
Foligno’s hard-working style was a bright spot against the Maple Leafs on Friday night in an otherwise disappointing showing for Columbus. One play embodied his game, when he chased down defenseman Dion Phaneuf on the forecheck and stripped the puck away to create a scoring chance and draw a penalty.
Against the Devils, Foligno was again tenacious with his heightened defensive responsibilities at center, finishing a hit just outside the Columbus blue line that forced the neutral zone turnover leading directly to Jack Skille’s opening goal.
“I was proud of the way we played. We did a lot of good things and unfortunately didn’t come out on the right side of it,” said Foligno.
Foligno left for the end of the second period after taking a slap shot high in the shoulder in front of the Devils’ net. But he returned for the third period and was an impact player in the Blue Jackets’ final push to tie the game.
“We need to continue to take steps. It’ll be back to the drawing board on Monday getting ready for a good team on Tuesday," Foligno said.
GIBBONS' STRONG DEBUT
That opening goal by Skille was also a product of the speed and hands of Brian Gibbons, who notched two assists in his Blue Jackets debut. Gibbons made a strong case to stay in the lineup going forward, looking like a natural fit on a line with Foligno and Skille and also getting nearly three minutes of power play time.
Gibbons slid a nifty pass under the stick of Devils’ defenseman Marek Zidlicky to find the streaking Skille in the first period. Then in the second, Gibbons’ vision was on display as he drew two Devils to him high in the offensive zone and slid the puck to the weak side defenseman Jack Johnson. Foligno deflected the Johnson shot, a clear lane created by a heady play from Gibbons.
FORSBERG STANDS TALL
Anton Forsberg earned third star honors in his NHL debut, making 26 saves and giving Columbus an opportunity to pull even after two quick New Jersey goals in the third period.
“He looked fine. I don’t know if the last puck was deflected but he battled, competed, and he gave us a chance,” said Richards.
That shot from Adam Larsson was through heavy traffic and came shortly after the Devils tied the score on a net-mouth scramble in a mess of bodies that never drew a whistle.
“I didn’t know where the puck was. I knew I had it in front of me. I don’t know,” said Forsberg.
Forsberg added several key stops, including a chance in close from Patrik Elias in the closing minutes, to keep Columbus alive.