KANATA, Ontario – As Gustav Olofsson defended winger Zach Parise in front of goalie Steve Michalek, Wild winger Marcus Foligno surveyed the action from along the boards before skating over to assist Parise.
While most of his teammates were assigned a day off in Ottawa ahead of stop No. 2 on a four-game road trip Tuesday against the Senators, Foligno spent Monday afternoon on the ice inside Canadian Tire Centre taking shots and skating laps — the itinerary after being a healthy scratch the night before.
“You’ve got to stay positive and just come to work,” Foligno said.
A regular in the lineup through October and November, Foligno has been the odd-man out twice in the past three games. Not only has he struggled to score, but the physical edge he was supposed to bring with him after an offseason trade from the Sabres has waned.
Amid a transition like this, Foligno expected to cope with change but wanted his style of play to remain the same.
And that’s what he’s trying to rediscover to perform as the player the Wild acquired him to be.
“I just have to get back to my old self,” he said.
Foligno doesn’t have to reach too far back in his memory for an example of his potential as a rugged forward.
Just last season he buried a career-high 13 goals while tying his best point total at 23. He also racked up the fifth-most hits in the NHL (279), but Foligno used his grit in other ways, too — like on the forecheck and in front of the net.
“I didn’t hesitate,” Foligno said. “Every game I reacted to the situation that was out there however I felt. I think when you overthink the game, it makes you hesitant and you can’t be hesitant in this league. I think when it comes to starts, I just have to go out there and be physical and whatever happens, happens.
“If it’s a night where the puck’s following me around, then great. If it’s not, I have to work on chasing it. That’s something I have to realize right now. I’ve been overthinking it a little bit too much.”
The 26-year-old hasn’t scored a goal since Nov. 2, a span of 20 games in which he’s chipped in just three assists, but it’s the subtleties that push the game along where Foligno can excel — the dump-ins, cycle work and momentum-changing hits.
Those responsibilities aren’t dissimilar from what Foligno delivered when he was in Buffalo before being shipped to the Wild along with winger Tyler Ennis and a 2018 third-rounder on June 30 in exchange for winger Jason Pominville, defenseman Marco Scandella and a 2018 fourth-round pick.
But it does take time to adapt to new surroundings, and Foligno gained insight on what to anticipate after chatting with his brother Nick and dad Mike, as both have been traded in their respective NHL tenures — Nick from the Senators to the Blue Jackets, while Mike was included in three swaps.
“For the most part their biggest message was you can’t change yourself and change the player you are,” Foligno said. “You’ve got to be yourself. You’ve got to be yourself around new teammates. You can’t change for anyone. So I think that’s the biggest thing is to just find a rhythm, a routine, and stick with it.”
With the three-day holiday break looming, Foligno feels enough time has passed for him to familiarize himself with the team and it’s up to him to improve.
He isn’t sure if he’ll be in the lineup against the Senators, but he hopes he is.
Foligno is eager to show he recognizes what he must do.
And it’s reversing a change that diminished his strengths.
“There’s lessons to be learned, and I’m learning them right now,” Foligno said. “I just have to make sure that I show up next game and put this behind me, and hopefully it’s an upward trend from here.”