Before the season even started, wingers Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman were pegged to anchor opposite ends of a depth line for the Wild — a fit that coach Bruce Boudreau anticipated once the team signed Hartman as a free agent in July.
Fast forward to December, and the two have fulfilled the vision that they would become a reliable duo, delivering a fourth-line boost lately that has revealed the chemistry they have developed.
“We kind of have the same style of play where we’re a little gritty,” Foligno said. “We provide energy, that hardworking style. I think Hartsy’s got a great set of hands on him. He can make some plays. He’s a good passer. As you can see, he can shoot the puck, too, pretty hard and he’s young, too. He’s got a lot of energy.”
Last season, Foligno was one half of a different pair — working with veteran Eric Fehr at 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill.
He and Hartman have adopted the same role, handling shorthanded situations together, and they have supplied secondary scoring.Foligno buried a give-and-go feed from Hartman during Thursday’s 6-5 victory over Edmonton, and the game before that it was Foligno who was setting up Hartman. Foligno earned the secondary assist on Hartman’s goal, which opened the scoring for the Wild in an eventual 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim. The assist rang up as the 100th of Foligno’s career.
“He’s strong,” Hartman said of the 6-3, 224-pound Foligno. “He’s a big guy. Having a big guy out there like Marcus makes me gain a few inches. I feel like I feel bigger out there, but I think we jell pretty well off the ice [and] on the ice. He’s a great guy, and it’s been fun playing together.”
This partnership was put on hiatus for much of November when Foligno was sidelined by a lower-body injury, but now that Foligno is back playing, the two haven’t appeared to have had any trouble rediscovering their rhythm — a bond that isn’t limited to the rink.
The two are friends, and having that type of camaraderie helps them on the ice, Hartman said, because they can communicate openly and hold each other accountable.
“We go for dinner pretty much every time we’re on the road together,” Foligno said. “He’s become a close friend of mine now. He’s a funny guy. He jokes around. He’s kind of like my style, so we have fun with each other on the ice, too. That’s huge.”
After assigning him back to the American Hockey League on Friday, the Wild recalled forward Gerald Mayhew on Saturday — a move designed to give the team an extra forward for its three-game road trip that starts Sunday at Chicago.Nearly the entire team will make the trip, which also includes stops in Vegas and Arizona. Only defenseman Greg Pateryn, who’s out with a lower-body injury, won’t travel.
Time to vote
Voting for the NHL All-Star Game has started, with fans determining the four captains for the fifth straight year.
Again this season, the festivities will include a skills competition and 3-on-3, three-game tournament among four teams — one for each NHL division — in St. Louis on Jan. 24-25. Fans can vote online at NHL.com/Vote and on the NHL app. Voting closes Saturday, with the top vote-getters by division (regardless of position) being named All-Stars and captains.
A maximum of four players are allowed per ballot. Fans can cast up to 10 ballots for each 24-hour period.