There have been a lot of zeros on the score sheet for Marcus Foligno lately. The winger has been on a line with superstars-in-the-making Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart but for 10 games he had no goals, not even an assist, to show for it.
That changed Saturday night as Foligno scored midway through the third period of the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 win over the Ottawa Senators in KeyBank Center.
The play started when Foligno went into the corner to forecheck, forcing Ottawa defenseman Dion Phaneuf to turn the puck over to Eichel. Eichel then fed Foligno, who was streaking to the net, and the winger snapped in the Sabres' fourth goal of the game.
And thus ended the 10-game drought for Foligno. More importantly, it gave him a point on the line with Eichel and Reinhart, relieving some pressure he felt to produce.
"I mean, you get put on a line with those guys and you need to perform with them and contribute," Foligno said. "I felt some pressure to perform and play a good game for those guys.
"You don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself but yeah, I do feel like you’re playing with two great players, players that are going to have amazing careers. This is a chance for me to contribute offensively, too. But I’ve got to remind myself that what I did tonight against Ottawa with the physicality and the fight and just simplicity of my game, it led to results. I can’t toe-drag like Jack can but I’ve got to make sure that I’m giving him room and Sam room out there."
While trying to contribute offensively, Foligno also understands his role as a physical player. That included fighting Mark Borowiecki in the second period after the Senators' defenseman was a little too aggressive with Eichel. It also helped the Sabres energy, which was lacking in the second despite a 1-0 lead.
"It’s something where Borowiecki was running down the boards, he does that a lot, he’s a physical player but when you do that against Jack, something's got to be said," Foligno said.
Sabres captain Brian Gionta is a native of the Rochester area, a soccer hotbed, and showed off his European football skills in the first period when he headed a puck at the blue line into the Ottawa zone.
"That was was just where it was coming," Gionta said. "I was hoping it would come down earlier but it kept sailing so I had to improvise."
— Cassie (@abstracthalo) February 5, 2017
It was the first game back for Sabres defensemen Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe.
And for coach Dan Bylsma the return of Gorges was welcomed, mostly so Gorges would stop his incessant insistence he was ready to play.
"If it were up to Josh he probably would have sat out 20 hours and not 20 days," Bylsma said Saturday morning. "He’s been saying for a good portion of time that he’s ready to play and could play and wants to play. His injury was one that he wasn’t able to have any activity for a portion of time. In the last nine days he’s returned to exercise and it’s just a matter of him feeling comfortable on the ice to get back in there. Josh has been one miserable guy to be around. I didn’t walk by him without him saying he was ready to play for 15 days."
Gorges, who picked up an assist on the first Sabres' goal, missed 12 games with a severely bruised hip which included a hematoma. That's what kept Gorges sidelined longer and what was frustrating for the defenseman, who last played on Jan. 5.
"This sort of injury was a difficult one because I didn't know how to deal with it," Gorges said, noting he was "feeling good for a while.
"Talking with the doctors, knowing what was going on, there was a risk to coming back too soon that just wasn't worth it. I understand that from a medical standpoint but as a player, you never want to hear that. You keep pushing and keep saying 'I'm ready, I'm ready.' It's good that the day finally came."
Saturday was the first day that goaltenders were required to wear new, slimmer-fitting, pants as part of the NHL's desire to increase scoring by decreasing goalie equipment size.
For Sabres' goalie Robin Lehner it wasn't a big deal. He's been wearing the new pants all season.
"Well I've had them all year since I got them," Lehner said. "I don't see any problems with them. After you use them a little bit they flatten out a little bit. I don't think it's going to be a big deal. It was not a big change. They're a little more rounded so you've got to squeeze your arms a little harder when it goes to the outside of our pants because it's not that flat edge that you had before that just kind of stopped the pucks but it's not a big change."
The Sabres will host a screening of the film "Soul On Ice: Past, Present & Future" at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Dipson Amherst Theater. Tickets are $10 with proceeds benefiting Hasek's Heroes.
The film touches on the contributions of black athletes to hockey, primarily following Jaden Lindo as he works to reach the NHL. Former Sabres Tony McKegney and Grant Fuhr offer in-depth interviews in the film.
McKegney and fellow Sabres' alum Val James will be part of panel discussion after the film with director Damon Kwame Mason.
Tickets can be purchased at the Dipson Amherst Theatre ticket office or online at Sabres.com/soulonice.