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Foligno aims to make an impact

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward Nick Foligno has seen his confidence soar during his second season with the team (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images).
A year ago, it was mostly about avoiding the long bus rides in Binghamton.

Now, after seizing hold of a roster spot during an impressive training camp, Nick Foligno talks confidently about not just holding onto it but, rather, wanting to be a real difference maker for the Ottawa Senators.

"I've tried to be an impact guy out there," said Foligno, who scored a highlight-reel goal against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. "I want to be someone that's relied on. I don't know if it will be as a scorer or as a responsible player. But I want to be someone who's relied upon by the coaches and the players to get the job done.

"It's just a matter of doing the things that I need to do, which is play on both ends of the ice and if I get a chance to put the puck in the net or make a play, I make it. Or if I get a chance to make sure the puck stays out of our net, I do that as well."

Foligno just might get his biggest chance yet to shine offensively on Friday night, when the second-year forward will likely line up alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley against the Phoenix Coyotes at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). Head coach Craig Hartsburg had the Senators' top pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft slotted in there during practice Monday in the absence of injured captain Daniel Alfredsson.

Hartsburg said Foligno's goal on Saturday, which saw him bull his way between two defenders to slap a loose puck past Wings goaltender Chris Osgood, was merely the latest sign of things to come from his young forward.

"We're still scratching the surface with Nick," he said. "He's going to continue to do more and more. There should be no reason, with the way he plays, that he can't produce some (offensive) numbers.

"He puts himself in position where he wants to score and wants to make something happen... To me, that (play against the Wings) was just second effort and out-competing someone for the goal."

Said Spezza: "It's his second year through now and I think he's more comfortable with the guys. You can tell he's playing with more confidence out there. It's something that we needed and it's good to see some of our young guys step up and help the team out."

Foligno relishes the chance to establish himself as a top-six forward. But after a rookie season spent shuttling between Ottawa and the the Senators' American Hockey League affliliate in Binghamton, it's nothing he'll ever take for granted.

"It's just more responsibility and I welcome that," he said. "I want to be someone they look toward to carry that responsibility. It just comes with playing smart and playing hard.

"You're counted upon to be a guy that's going to help the team. It's a nice role to be in but you've got to make sure you're working hard because you can get it in a second and lose it in a second."

Alfredsson recovery 'very positive'

Alfredsson has always been a quick healer, it seems. So it's no surprise that it's better than just so far, so good in the captain's recovery from the arthroscopic surgery he underwent last Friday to remove a bone chip from his right knee.

"He skated this morning and it felt pretty good," said Hartsburg, adding it's too soon to suggest he might join the rest of the team for practice on Wednesday. "We'll see where he's at tomorrow when he comes back."

Hartsburg also wouldn't venture a guess about whether there's any chance Alfredsson might be ready to face off against the Coyotes on Friday night.

"I'm not sure at this point. I don't want to say yes or no," he said. "We'll see how he is tomorrow. Every day he comes in, (the training staff) evaluates how he feels ... if there's pain or if there's swelling. So far, he's been pretty good. It's been very positive, for sure."

Around the boards

With the Senators playing back-to-back home games against Phoenix and the Boston Bruins on Friday and Saturday this week, Hartsburg suggested Monday both his goaltenders could see action. But today, he named Martin Gerber the starter against the Coyotes and said he'd decide on Saturday's netminder after that game ... Defenceman Chris Phillips, who suffered a cut that required stitches after blocking a shot Saturday against the Red Wings, expects to be on the ice Wednesday. "It's already getting better," he said. "There hasn't been much swelling, which is a good sign. It should be fine." ... Fewer than 500 tickets remain for Friday's game, while just 1,500 are left for Saturday.

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