|Senators forward Nick Foligno, who has been on a hot streak of late, hopes to be a cornerstone of the team's future (Getty Images).
Try as he might, Nick Foligno
still finds it difficult to revel in the recent upswing in his production.
The Senators forward has produced three goals and seven points in his last five outings heading into Tuesday night's matchup with the Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), making him one of Ottawa's hottest players offensively coming out of the National Hockey League all-star break.
But the 23-year-old Buffalo native, who went goal-less for 24 games to start the current campaign, keeps looking at the current Eastern Conference standings and wishes his team could produce a turnaround that mirrors his own improved production.
"I feel like I'm starting to get results," said Foligno, the Senators' first-round pick (28th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. "It's been a positive, but I'd like to see the team start doing well as well. That's something that's not making me happy."
At 17-25-8, the Senators stand 13th in the East, 15 points shy of a post-season berth. While climbing that mountain seems overly daunting, Foligno believes a little more offence can go a long way toward helping Ottawa at least boost its win total in the second half of the season.
"We need to just try to get on that scoreboard as much as possible," he said. "We have some guys in this room that can do that on a nightly basis and we haven't done that consistently. We need to make a better effort to get on the scoresheet and (do it) more often. If everyone commits themselves to doing that and playing well defensively and then (we have) good goaltending, there is no reason why we can't win games."
Foligno's recent offensive gains can't do anything but help a team that ranks 29th in the NHL in goal scoring. Only the Devils have produced fewer goals so far this season.
"His game is starting to come around for sure," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston. "That's a positive for him and a positive for the team."
The best, Foligno hopes, is still yet to come. He appeared headed for a top-six role after leading the Senators in pre-season scoring with four goals. But the 24-game drought to start the regular schedule dampened those ambitions for a while.
"I have to skill to be able to play a top-six role, but I'll continue to be a hard-working, grindstone kind of guy," said Foligno. "Even if the points don't come, I'm still effective on any given night. I'm not focusing on being a point getter, but I think I have those abilities. I just want to make sure I'm playing solid and helping the team in any way possible."
Clouston agreed the Senators haven't seen Foligno's full potential just yet.
"We need him to be a big part of this team," he said. "We need to ask for more from him. Sometimes, an individual doesn't realize how much more potential they have. I don't want to call it hidden potential, but myself and the rest of the organization sees a bright future for Nick and we need him to continue to improve."
The Senators appear headed for some off-season personnel changes, but Foligno wants to be key a part of building a better franchise for the future.
"I'm unhappy with the situation we're in (now), but I'm not unhappy being here," he said. "I love playing in Ottawa and this is the only place I want to play. I want to turn this team around. I want to be a part of the solution and this is something I take pretty seriously, the fact we haven't done well.
"I want to be a core player going forward. I want to be someone that's counted on to lead this team. That's just with playing correctly and doing the things I need to do. But there is absolutely that drive and determination within me to want to lead this team and help this team win. I take it upon myself to make sure I'm at my best every night and, hopefully, (the turnaround) starts with the second half here."