It was obvious by the stat sheet that Ted Nolan wanted more out of Marcus Foligno.
The 22-year-old forward was watching his ice time dwindle and his new coach was asking where the “power” was in the power forward’s game.
As November wore on, he was playing fewer shifts. On Nov. 24 he saw his season-low in ice time – just 7 minutes, 33 seconds.
Nolan challenged Foligno. Slowly, he started playing up to his abilities and, more important, began doing so on a consistent basis.
His reward? More ice time and more offense. After going 11 games without a point, Foligno has his first two-game goal streak of his career, with tallies this week against Winnipeg and Boston.
He will look to extend the streak tonight as the Sabres complete the home-and-home series at Boston.
“Marcus is a power forward,” Nolan said. “He had to be a little bit more aggressive and use his size to his advantage and his skating ability and his hockey sense. He’s going to be a real good player but like all young players you have to do it on a consistent basis.”
When Nolan decreased Foligno’s ice time it became an opportunity. Foligno understood the onus was on him to earn his playing time and that would come through consistent hard work.
“I think it was just a message and it was well received,” Foligno said. “It wasn’t like he shut down my ice time for no reason. He told me why and it’s in my hands really. I’m the one who has to hold myself accountable for the ice time I get.
“I’m eager to get out there and work hard. I’ve been rewarded with the ice time, and if I keep up this play then for myself I’m going to see a lot of playing time. And that’s what you want. I want to be a dominant player in this league, an elite player, and you have to have the minutes to do that.”
At 6-foot-3, 223 pounds, Foligno is a big body. Add in his skating and stick skills and he has the ability to be dangerous in front of the net. That’s where his two goals this week came from – being in front of the net. Thursday night against Boston, he was able to put in a loose puck on the goal line.
Tuesday against Winnipeg he drove hard to the net on a rush and got his stick on a pass from Cody Hodgson to direct the puck into an empty net.
“I think I’m just playing a little simpler, a little harder, going to the net,” Foligno said. “That’s how I scored the two goals recently. It’s not shying away from the net. I definitely want to be a big-body presence and be physical every night.”
The goals are a reward and a confidence boost for Foligno after a disappointing game against Calgary in which he took three penalties in a rough outing.
“Every time he touched it, I don’t know if they were really his fault but he was called for them,” Nolan said of the penalties.
“It just wasn’t his game. But he came back and the way he played, the way he skated, the way he went to the net, the way he used his body. He had three hits in one shift, I think. … He plays that way he’s going to be a powerful force in this league.”
But resiliency is one of the keys of the new-look Sabres and head-hanging isn’t part of the formula for success.
“Work first, points second,” Foligno said.