Anonymity is not an option for Marcus Foligno.
“When I’m on my game it’s noticeable,” he said Saturday. “When I’m not it’s noticeable, too.”
The Sabres winger has been noticeably absent for long stretches this season. It went a step further during Buffalo’s final game before the Olympic break. Coach Ted Nolan scratched Foligno in Ottawa after watching him struggle for the better part of two months.
The 22-year-old recharged physically and mentally during the NHL hiatus, and he’s eager to get back on the ice Tuesday when the Sabres host Carolina.
“You’ve got to go forward and build off it,” Foligno said in First Niagara Center. “You want to stay in the lineup. When you look at it, you’ve got 25 games left and you’ve got to work your hardest.”
It’s hard to gauge Foligno’s role or project his potential. The 6-foot-3, 223-pounder shot up the Sabres’ prospect chart as a hard-working, corner-charging winger who was solid but not flashy. When he got to Buffalo in 2012, he was an offensive force who put up 13 points in 13 games.
In the 98 games since the splash, he has 11 goals and 32 points.
“To get a big, tough, grinding forward who is a good checking forward who can chip in offensively, I think you see Marcus more in that role,” Nolan said. “Some games he plays like that. Some games he plays like a big skill guy.
“Right now we’ve just got to find his groove, and his groove I believe is going to be a power forward. Those power forwards are tough to find. We have one right here, so we’ve got to fine-tune it and develop him.”
Nolan said the onus is on him to develop Foligno, but the winger has to take command of his game, too.
“Preparation is huge in this league, and I’m learning that you need to be mentally prepared every game,” he said. “Definitely as a power forward you want to be able to hit and get to the net and get chances for your team. You want to be a physical presence every night, a hard-working teammate.
“This is a tough league. The guys who stay around do the little things right, and I just want to be relied on in certain situations. I want to play on top lines. ... I’m one of the stronger guys in this league that needs to play on the edge every night. I’m just learning to do that and stay consistent with that.”
Foligno found himself in the press box after putting up one goal and two assists in 19 games. He has six goals and 14 points in 51 games this season, and the Sabres are 5-1 when he scores.
“He’s a young kid that doesn’t need to play inconsistent as much as he has been,” Nolan said. “Some days he looks really good. Some days not so good, but that’s our job. Our job is to get a consistent effort from him because he’s a real good talent and he’s going to be a big part of our team. We’ve got to make sure we push him to live up to those expectations.”
The United States’ Olympic tournament ended with a thud as Finland routed the Americans, 5-0, in the bronze-medal game. The exit was earlier than anticipated, which means Ryan Miller gets Buffalo’s first game after the Sochi break.
The Sabres start a run of three games in four nights Tuesday, and Miller will get the nod against the Hurricanes. Backup Jhonas Enroth will represent Sweden in the gold-medal game today, so Miller will be back in North America first and have more time to get adjusted.
“Yeah, now that he’s going to be the first one home,” Nolan said. “That time zone is tough. He’ll have a little bit more time to adjust than Jhonas.”
A hockey player from Latvia, the Nolan-coached country that is one of the feel-good stories of the men’s Olympic tournament, has been disqualified by the International Olympic Committee after he tested positive for a banned stimulant.
The Latvian Olympic Committee was not aware that Vitalijs Pavlovs was taking the supplement, according to the report issued by the IOC.
Pavlovs, who plays for Dynamo Riga in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, said his team doctor recommended the supplement. It contains methylhexaneamine, which is reportedly found in many over-the-counter training aids.
As a result of the positive test, Pavlovs has been disqualified from Latvia’s 2-1 quarterfinal loss to Canada and will have to return his diploma given for the team’s eighth-place finish. Pavlovs skated 16:56 in the game and had two shots. He had one assist and a plus-1 rating in five games for Latvia while skating 13:55 per game.