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Blue Jackets' Foligno ready to show off Columbus

by Craig Merz

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno will captain Team Foligno at the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend, to be held Jan. 23-25 in Columbus.

In addition to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, which will be played Jan. 25 at Nationwide Arena (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), Foligno will be responsible for selecting his team via the 2015 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft presented by DraftKings on Jan. 23 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

 He'll also take part in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 24 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Foligno, 27, is having a career season and signed six-year, $33 million contract extension through the 2020-21 season Dec. 31.

The first-time All-Star discusses welcoming the League to Columbus, his family and those hugs with Columbus goaltender and fellow All-Star Sergei Bobrovsky:

Your reaction to being named to the All-Star Game?

"Are you sure it's me?

"No. John Davidson [Blue Jackets president of hockey operations] told me. I was thrilled, humbled, excited; all those things. It's something you dream about as a kid, and to have it happen, I'm thankful. It's a recognition of my teammates, coaches, our owners and the fans here in Columbus. I can't wait to show people what a great hockey town Columbus is."

Who did you call first?

"My wife [Janelle]. I said, 'Honey, don’t make any plans for the All-Star break; we're staying here.'"

Is there added significance that the game is in Columbus?

"For sure. That's makes it even more special that I'm representing the entire city and fans here. It's absolutely an honor. I've never played in the game before but I was playing in Ottawa when the All-Star Game was there (2012). My teammates on the Senators told me how great it was to play in front of the home crowd and the responsibility that goes with it.

I hope I don't mess it up."

Turning away from hockey for bit; how's your daughter Milana doing? (The Folignos' first child was born Oct. 14, 2013 with a congenital heart defect. She underwent corrective surgery in Boston three weeks later.)

"She's doing great. She's up and running around. She's a handful. We're thankful every day that she's healthy."

You missed several games because of her surgery; it must have weighed on you throughout the season?

"I learned as a parent that you're always concerned about your children. Our situation was no different in that regard but it was different in others obviously. I think it helped me appreciate every day more and understand better what's important in life. I love coming home after a game and seeing her face."

You're having your best season, tying your career high with 18 goals at the halfway point. What's been the difference in the Nick Foligno now and the one that joined the Blue Jackets three seasons ago?

"I think maturity for one. Like I said earlier, I've had to grow up and be responsible for others both on and off the ice. I've got great coaches. We sat down after last season and really defined what my roles and responsibilities would be. I have to credit my teammates too. I wouldn't be here without them. I go out, play hard and keep my nose to the grindstone.

You could have been an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season; why did you decide to remain with the Blue Jackets?

"I believe in what we're doing here and the direction we're headed. I want to win a Stanley Cup and being part of making it happen would be incredible. We have a great group of guys here that make it fun to play with. I wanted to be here for the long haul and my family loves it here."

You seem to be a big advocate for Columbus; what do you want others to know about the city when they come for All-Star Weekend?

"First, that they love hockey here. They're loyal and passionate even though they haven't had a lot to cheer about over the years. We're trying to change that.

"It's a great city. It's got the big-city feel but it's easy to get around. It's a great place to raise a family. You have the [Columbus] zoo, which is one of the best zoos in the country. There's great restaurants and plenty of things to do. It might surprise people."

Your father Mike played 1,018 NHL games and in 1985-86 scored 41 goals for the Buffalo Sabres yet never was an All-Star. Your younger brother Marcus with the Sabres hasn't been an All-Star. Does that give you family bragging rights?

"I don't want go there. We'll see. My dad had a great career and I hope to play as long as he did and have the type of career he had. I'm just happy he's going to be here for the All-Star Game. I'd be really happy for Marcus if he made it someday."

Did you get caught up in the Ohio State football team winning the NCAA championship?

"You've got to. Living here I've become a big fan. It's fantastic what they did. It's a great thing for the school and the city. As an athlete you respect what they did and the adversity they overcame."

You're known for your bear hug of Bobrovsky after every win. If you do that to backup Curtis McElhinney would Bobrovsky get jealous?

"I don't really hug Curtis much. He's not the hugging type."

If Bobrovsky is on Team Toews and gets the win against you in the All-Star Game what will you do?

"I'd probably punch him (laughs)."

You became a legend in Columbus when you predicted scoring an overtime goal in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and then did it to tie the series. Are you predicting any goals in the All-Star Game?

"I don't know. I got lucky once. I just hope I don't fall down and embarrass myself."

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