One of the drawbacks to a shortened training camp is limited time to develop chemistry among line mates -- and especially so on a team with several new faces.
The Blue Jackets are one of those teams and Nick Foligno is one of those newcomers, but like his teammates, he's trying to make the most of a hectic schedule this week in preparation for the season opener on Saturday night in Nashville. When Blue Jackets Training Camp presented by OhioHealth opened yesterday, Foligno was slotted on one of three "scoring lines" iced by head coach Todd Richards.
Mark Letestu, who came over last season in a trade with Pittsburgh, centered the line and veteran Vinny Prospal played the right side. With Letestu's face-off skills, the trio started with the puck a lot and was able to get some chances going off the rush in drills, but like many players admitted afterward, the likelihood of all the lines staying intact was slim.
And sure enough, there were changes this morning.
Foligno remained with Prospal in today's practice but Ryan Johansen moved up to center the line, and Richards got a good look at a young player trying to make an impact in just his second NHL season.
The two veterans on the line have never played together in previous NHL stops, but Foligno said he would welcome the chance to play with Prospal if that's how the season began.
"Vinny’s a really good player and he’s played in this league at a high level for a long time," Foligno told BlueJackets.com after practice today. "He’s proven himself year in and year out. He works so hard and he’s a blast to play with. You can see how much fun he has when he plays, and it's contagious.
"I don’t really know how it’s going to shake out or how our lines will look down the road, but I do enjoy playing with him."
During his five-year stint with Ottawa Senators, Foligno played all three forward positions including extended time at both left and right wing. He has played exclusively on the left wing the past two days, but if change is warranted, he is willing and comfortable with playing either side.
Foligno put up 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) with the Senators a year ago while getting ice time on both wings and at center, so change isn't something he's too concerned with.
"I’m more than happy to play whatever position they need me to play," Foligno said. "My job is to go out there, play well and try to produce offensively, and be smart in the defensive zone, too. It’s about playing a solid all-around game, and I plan on doing that."
One aspect that Foligno and the Blue Jackets have keyed on the past two days is puck possession and managing the game. Richards said defense and checking have been focal points, and also making sure they are dictating the pace.
Winning face-offs is a big part of controlling the game, Foligno said, and he's certain it will be an item on the agenda throughout the season for several teams around the NHL.
"Puck possession is so big in this game now," he said. "It’s all about how quickly you can get from defense to offense and get your transition game going. The best teams do it quickly and it seems like they have the puck the whole games sometimes.
"I’m excited with how we’re going to play. I think it’s an exciting way to play the game and it’ll bode well for us this season."