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The Welcome Wagon

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

First came the trade. Then, signing the contract. But it wasn't officially "welcome to Columbus, Nick Foligno" until he set foot in the city for the first time as a Blue Jacket.

That moment is this week, as he and wife Janelle are getting a great opportunity to explore their new home together and find a place to settle in. So far, the house-hunting has taken up some time, but there has been a lot of driving and learning as the Folignos look to get their bearings in the capital city.

They arrived on Monday, rented a car and set out on their Columbus expedition. On Tuesday, Nick visited both CD 102.5 FM and QFM 96's morning radio shows and spent some time getting to know the local personalities. Tonight was his first chance to meet the fans and interact with the Blue Jacket faithful, signing autographs and even playing street hockey with some youngsters at the team's annual open house event.

It's been non-stop, but also worthwhile.

"Our first impression is that we love it here," Foligno said. "We got to see some places, and we're still trying to figure out where we're going to live, but we fell in love with the city. We think it has a lot to offer and it's a great place.

"The people have been great, we really enjoy it here, and so far it's been a lot of fun."

Since being acquired by the Blue Jackets, Foligno has expressed nothing but excitement about playing an expanded role in Columbus and being counted on to contribute offensively. The commitment between he and the organization has made the transition smooth, Foligno said, and his new teammates have also played a big hand in making him feel right at home.

"The only initial shock was that I was leaving a place I'd played in for five years and grew up with that organization, and it was the only one I knew," Foligno said of Ottawa. "I've already met great guys like Jack Johnson and Adrian Aucoin. They're great people. (I've met more players) like James Wisniewski, and Jared Boll I met today.

"You realize that it picks up right where it left off, and I'm excited to be growing with this team now and being a piece to the puzzle here. I think we have a lot to offer; we're a young team that can do real well and exceed expectations. That's the biggest thing, and we just have to work hard for it."

Coming off a career year (15 goals and 47 points), the Blue Jackets and GM Scott Howson feel as if they've acquired a player that is on the brink of becoming a quality two-way forward with more to give on the offensive side of the puck.

Because the potential for further roster changes still looms, Foligno said the expectations he has for himself have to remain in check even though training camp is two months away.

"As you get older and more confident, you want that responsibility," he said. "I want to be someone who can play in important situations and can help the team. Whether it's to keep a goal out of the net or score a goal late in the game, I definitely put pressure on myself to be somebody like that.

"If the goals come, great, and if I'm doing other things to help, that's even better."

Doing the little things to help the team win are important to Foligno, and he was regularly charged with that role during his time with the Senators. There are parallels between last year's Ottawa team and the currently constructed Blue Jackets, he said -- the Senators were a young team that was counted out by the "experts" prior to the start of the season, but came together as a group and established their own standards for success.

The improved goaltending, strengthened blue line, and mix of both veteran and young forwards give Foligno every reason to believe the Blue Jackets can make the same kind of noise in 2012-13.

"When you have that kind of mixture, you're destined for good things," Foligno said. "There's a lot of guys that can learn under (the veterans) and that's something I want to do: I want to be a big part of that and help the younger guys learn while becoming better as a player, as well.

"I'm looking forward to that opportunity, and growing together as a team. I think we're going to surprise a lot of people this year."

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