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With son's health improving, Foligno to return to lineup Tuesday

CBJ captain has not been with team as youngest battles pneumonia

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

When Nick Foligno didn't travel with the Blue Jackets to Boston to start a 10-night, four-game road trip two Saturdays ago, the only comment from the team was a telling one from head coach John Tortorella. 

"That family has gone through a lot," Tortorella said. "The hell with the game and all the stuff that goes on with that. That family has gone through a tremendous amount. We're just trying to support him the best way we can." 

Tuesday, after he returned to practice ahead of tonight's game at Nationwide Arena vs. the New York Islanders, Foligno revealed just how much more his family has gone through over the past two weeks. 

Foligno said his son Hudson, who will turn 2 years old in May, remains in the ICU at Nationwide Children's Hospital as he battles pneumonia so severe that his right lung collapsed at one point. The youngest of three Foligno children has been ill since March 11, when Foligno's wife Janelle took him to the hospital, and things turned serious a few days later as the Blue Jackets were facing Carolina on March 15 at home. 

Video: Foligno comments on his recent absence from CBJ

Hudson "still has a bit of a battle," Nick said, but has been removed from a ventilator after 11 days and has made enough progress that Foligno has returned to the team. He is expected to enter the lineup tonight against the Islanders. 

Earlier this year, Foligno missed four games while his 5-year-old daughter, Milana, who has battled a congenital heart defect for her entire life, had to undergo surgery related to her condition. 

"I was pretty scared; even with everything we've gone through with my daughter, this is something so different," Nick said Tuesday. "You can't prepare yourself to see your kid fighting like that. I really appreciate the support. It's been a trying year off the ice with my family, but the support I've gotten has made it a lot easier from the guys in this room and this organization. We're just going to keep plowing ahead and getting him better and hopefully put this behind us. 

"When you see your kid that age fighting -- no kid should have to be on a breathing ventilator or dealing with this at that young of an age. He's not the only one. You see other families and people in there. It just makes you appreciate the life you have and the health you have, and I'm looking forward to putting that to good use in the game tonight." 

Foligno did not travel with the team the night of March 15 to Boston, where the Blue Jackets lost in overtime a night later. The team then trekked west on its only Western Canada trip of the season, and Foligno was not with the team for losses vs. Calgary and Edmonton and then Sunday night's victory vs. Vancouver that moved Columbus to within two points of a playoff spot. 

"It's never easy," Foligno said. "Your family is the most important thing, your kids are the most important thing. It pains you as a parent, I think anyone will attest to it, when you see your child there. You'd switch places with them in a second. Obviously my thoughts were with my son at the time. 

"If I'm going to step out there on the ice, I owe it to these guys to make sure I'm doing what I need to do as well, so I've been able to separate the two, but with how serious it got, I just didn't feel comfortable leaving on that big of a road trip. I don't have any regrets for it. I'm just happy to be back here." 

That feeling is mutual, as Foligno was greeted by stick taps and hugs from his teammates, who he called his "second family," upon returning to practice Tuesday. 

"When we saw him this morning it put a smile on our lot of our faces," Boone Jenner said. "I know he's excited to be back. We're excited to get him back. We definitely missed him out west and this time of year. We know he's pumped to be back, and we're all pretty excited for him to be here this morning." 

Foligno, who has scored 16 goals and 14 assists for 30 points in 66 games this year, will return to the lineup in place of Markus Hannikainen, Tortorella said before the game. 

While the captain's thoughts continue to stray not far from Nationwide Children's Hospital, he is also excited to return to a little bit of normalcy. For Foligno, normalcy means lacing them up against the Islanders tonight.

"This has been a trying year, but people go through so much worse," he said. "I'm going to count my blessings, too, on the other side and know that I get to come here and play a game I love because of how well he's doing and how strong he is and the work of the people in that hospital. I'll never be able to thank them enough. 

"It's special to be back here. I'd like the outside noise to be over. He obviously still has a little bit of a battle. We're going to keep monitoring him. He's still in the hospital, but I feel comfortable enough to be here and play tonight." 

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