The clock hasn’t struck midnight yet for Nick Foligno
When Ottawa Senators head coach John Paddock announced his lineup changes for Thursday night’s game with the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., A-Channel, Team 1200), the rookie forward’s name wasn’t among them. Instead, it’s Brian McGrattan who’s the odd man out as Randy Robitaille makes his Senators debut.
“It’s just a decision I made for today,” Paddock told reporters following the Senators’ game-day morning skate. “I talked to Brian and said it’s not going to be this way every game, it’s going to be this way sometimes. It’s just the way it is.”
When Robitaille cleared National Hockey League waivers on Wednesday, it created a glut of bodies at the forward position. And with Dean McAmmond working his way back from the effects of a concussion, speculation began to grow that the clock was beginning to tick against Foligno and a demotion to Binghamton might be imminent.
Not on this day, though McAmmond’s return will surely put Foligno under an even bigger microscope. He has yet to record a point in seven games with the big club.
“He’s obviously not comfortable, so it makes it a little tougher to produce,” said centre Jason Spezza
. “You can tell (Foligno) to relax, but when you see new guys coming in, you’re obviously going to be uptight about it.
“But I think the most important thing is just to play well. The better you play, the (more chance) they’re not going to send you down. That’s the best approach.”
It’s the outlook the typically cheerful Foligno seems to have as he looks forward.
“I’m not going to look at the numbers game too much,” said the 19-year-old son of former NHLer Mike Foligno. “I’m just going to go out there and play. I think what I need to do to stick around is just keep it simple and show them that I can be a reliable guy every time I step out on to the ice.
“I knew it was going to take a little time to break in, but I feel like I’m getting better every day and I’m just going to try to translate that into games and do what (the coaches) ask. Today’s another step in the right direction, hopefully, for me.”
Paddock suggested the same type of thing, saying “he wants to play with too much skill at times. He needs to play in straight lines – go to the net, bump into some people when the opportunity is there. Don’t play soft at any time.”
Robitaille, meanwhile, will line up alongside Shean Donovan and Christoph Schubert against the Canadiens. It’s an exciting moment for an Ottawa native who’ll suit up for his hometown NHL team for the first time.
“I’ll probably be a little more nervous than usual but after a couple of shifts, I’ll calm down and settle in,” said Robitaille, a 32-year-old who’s made eight previous stops in the NHL. “But it’s like riding a bike. You just come back and fit in after a few shifts, get a little sweat going and everything should be good … it’ll just be time to play hockey.”
Down the stretch for the New York Islanders last season, Robitaille played some key minutes on a line with Ryan Smyth as the Isles fought to make the playoffs. So Paddock knows he’s getting a battle-tested veteran.
“He won’t play with a Dany Heatley or that type of player, but he has that kind of skill and that kind of crunch-time experience,” said Paddock. “He (gives us) some depth so that when injuries come, we’ve got another player who can provide a little bit of offence.”
Less than 200 tickets remain for tonight’s game. Only 350 are still available for Saturday's visit by the Florida Panthers to Scotiabank Place.