Entering this postseason, Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno was one of the few players on this team's roster with any sort of playoff experience. Furthermore, he was one of even fewer members of Columbus' squad with any sort of postseason experience against the Penguins. As a member of the Senators, he fell to the Penguins in the 2008 and 2010 postseasons.
Foligno missed the first two games of this first round series with the Penguins series in Pittsburgh due to a "lower-body" injury. Even though the Blue Jackets were able to split those games, Foligno's experience as well as his style of agitating, physical play were missed. He is expected to return to the lineup tonight. At today's morning skate at Nationwide Arena, he worked on the team's third line with Artem Anisimov and R.J. Umberger.
After the skate, Foligno talked about being out the lineup, how to play against Sidney Crosby and his experiences against the Penguins.
What have the last two games been like watching from the press box?
"It’s funny when you watch from up top. The open ice that you see and the way the systems work. So maybe I had a little bit of head start on that scenario. Things happen so quick in the game. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and really just playing a physical style of game we’re playing and chip in wherever possible."
Do you think the team has been able to disrupt the Penguins game a little?
"I think so. I think with the way we play, it’s kind of our style. It’s tough. We play a grinding style of game. They’re a team that’s such a skilled, dynamic team, sometimes when you get that momentum going in your favor, it can be tough on the opponent. We know we have to play that way and to continue to play that way to have a chance in this series. They’re such a great team and they so many good things that if we don’t play that style, that physical grinding style, our game doesn’t come to the forefront and our opportunities don’t happen and that’s when Pittsburgh takes over."
Will it be challenging to come back to engage in some physical play after missing some time?
"No, not at all. I love that kind of stuff. I’m looking forward to the physicality part of it. That’s kind of where my game kind of starts to come out. I’m looking forward to that. I think it will help me get into the game even more knowing you’ve got to be ready every shift to be hit or get hit."
You've had some run-ins with Sidney Crosby over the years. Is it part of the game plan to agitate him and the other team's stars?
"I don’t know if it’s a key of ours but it’s the way we play. We want to be hard on those guys. I don’t if it’s to agitate them. It’s just to take away their time and space. I think with that, it becomes the agitation. I know how dynamic those guys are. I’ve played them in two series already [with Ottawa]. You need to make sure you’re taking away their space because they can do some crazy, magical things with the puck and make you look pretty silly. That’s definitely been one of our focuses is just to take away their time and space. It’s worked so far but we know we can let our foot off the pedal in that sense."
Is there pride in being able to make the Penguins' stars play defense for an entire shift when you have the puck in their zone?
I think that says you’re doing a lot of good things as a team. Obviously, it’s a sense of pride because you’re playing the right way and making those guys play defense. Even for our [skilled] guys, it’s no fun playing defense. I think were just looking to make sure we’re doing the right things and when we do, we’re playing in the offensive zone. We’re creating cycles, creating chances and making it real difficult. Anytime you can keep the puck out of their hands, it’s going to be a good thing for us.
You mention the two previous series you played against them. Obviously you want to win this series in general but would it be satisfying to you personally to finally win against the Penguins in the postseason?
"Yeah, I’ve played against these guys twice and haven’t done well. It would definitely be nice to get a series win. Obviously, that’s you’re goal. You want to win a Stanley Cup and you’ve got to get by everyone to do so."
(Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)