They don’t boast the same profile as the Bruins’ Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
Their contracts are nowhere near as hefty as the ones on the Stars’ ledger for Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
And the amount of points the two have combined for this season is far from the total Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen have racked up for the Avalanche.
But Wild forwards Marcus Foligno and Eric Fehr have morphed into a reliable duo that has merited more responsibility — a development that while perhaps unheralded has boosted the team.
“We’re happy to be playing as well as we are,” Foligno said.
As two-thirds of the fourth line, Foligno and Fehr have made the most impact on the penalty kill even though they have been a factor in the offensive zone by chipping in two goals and six points.
A week ago, they had their best performance to date in the 4-1 win over the Kings.
Aside from Foligno setting up Fehr for the game’s first goal, the two logged 6 minutes, 53 seconds on the penalty kill — getting motioned over the boards as the first forward unit to take to the ice in almost every shorthanded situation, a trend that’s continued.
Time has stoked the effectiveness of this partnership, as the two have been mostly together since training camp. Crystal-clear expectations have helped, too.
Fehr arrived on the scene after signing as a free agent in the summer as a proven penalty killer, but this is a new challenge for Foligno with the Wild.
After a ho-hum debut with the organization last season following a June 2017 trade from the Sabres, Foligno wanted more ice time but didn’t want to ask for it.
Instead, during his exit meeting with coach Bruce Boudreau in the spring, Foligno inquired about a role. Boudreau told him he’d have a spot on the penalty kill next season, and Foligno was pleased.
“My whole agenda this summer was to get quicker and faster because on the penalty kill there’s a lot of stops and starts,” said Foligno, who also killed penalties in Buffalo. “As a big man, it’s not always the easiest moving out there. But I worked at it. If you’re going to ask for something, you gotta back it up. So I’m glad it’s going well this year.”
Communication is key to Foligno and Fehr’s rhythm when shorthanded; the duo has been on the ice for only one power-play goal against since they began working together in the third game of the season.
Now the two average the most shorthanded minutes per game among forwards, with Fehr at 2:41 and Foligno not too far behind at 2:21. The Wild ranked fifth in the league on the penalty kill at 86.8 percent after it went 5-for-5 in the 4-3 win over the Oilers Tuesday.
“We saw the opportunity, and we both looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Foligno said. “So we took advantage of the opportunity.”
But reacting rather than thinking is important, too, and that chemistry is blossoming between the two — every time they skate together and when they watch video.
They’re also getting to know each other off the ice, with Foligno recently meeting Fehr’s family.
“That stuff goes a long way,” Foligno said. “You get out to dinners on the road. Even to have his family over to dinner, that’s what we’re trying to do. He’s a good guy. He comes to work every day. He has a positive attitude. He’s someone that I like to keep myself around. [He’s] real positive. It just kind of rubs off on everyone. You want to work hard for a teammate or a person who has that positive attitude.”
While scoring isn’t the trademark of the Foligno-Fehr combination, its contributions are still integral to the Wild’s cohesiveness.
“I’ve found that most teams that are successful,” Fehr said, “have their pairs that are together.”
Sarah McLellan covers the Wild and NHL hockey for the Star Tribune.