OTTAWA – When Nick Foligno packs his bag to leave for Sweden on Sunday, the Ottawa Senators’ sophomore can take some added confidence and job security along with him.
The 20-year-old left-winger, who appeared in 45 games with the Senators last year, figures to play a much bigger role for the team when Ottawa’s kicks off the regular season with back-to-back games against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 4 and 5 in Stockholm.
Foligno scored a highlight-reel goal and was the best player on the ice Saturday night, being named the game’s first star in the Senators’ 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in their final exhibition contest on these shores.
“Tonight, Foligno was outstanding,” Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg said. “He’s gotten stronger and stronger as the (training) camp’s gone on.”
The Senators reassigned five players to Binghamton of the American Hockey League earlier Saturday, a move that reduced its roster to 25. Sent packing were defenceman Brendan Bell and forwards Brad Isbister, Matt Carkner, Peter Regin and Greg Mauldin.
The Senators also agreed to terms with veteran blue-liner Luke Richardson on a one-year, two-way contract after the 39-year-old attended training camp on a tryout basis. Richardson has played 1,415 regular-season games over 20 previous NHL campaigns.
One more player probably will be sent down Sunday, likely centre Zack Smith.
It won’t be Foligno, who, with Ottawa trailing 1-0 in the first period, beat Canadiens defenceman Mike Komisarek 1-on-1 before flipping the puck over goaltender Marc Denis while falling to the ice for his first goal of the pre-season.
It was just one of many strong shifts by the youngster, who had six goals and nine points last season in the NHL.
“I had a lot of jump today, which is something I wanted to bring,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a crucial time right now. It’s getting down to the end of camp and you’ve got to make sure you’re playing well.”
“Coming in, you know what to expect having played half a season in the NHL. You’ve still got to bring that work ethic each and every day. At the start of camp, I was just getting back into it. Slowly, I felt better each and every day and today I felt pretty good out there, so I’ve just go to make sure I keep building off that and making sure I’m working hard for everyone on the team.”
Chris Neil, with his team-leading third in exhibition play, and Daniel Alfredsson, also with his first, had the other Ottawa goals as the Senators avenged a 5-0 loss to the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Friday.
Martin Gerber allowed a goal to Montreal’s Kyle Chipchura on the first shot of the game, then went on to record 18 stops for Ottawa (3-2-0) before a sold-out crowd of 20,282 at Scotiabank Place.
For the Canadiens (3-2-0), Denis gave up three goals on 18 shots before being replaced by Cedrick Desjardins to start the third. Desjardins stopped all nine shots he faced the rest of the way.
The Senators first travel to Alfredsson’s hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, where they’ll face Frolunda in an exhibition game on Oct. 2 before moving on to Stockholm.
“It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it,” said Alfredsson, who’ll serve as tour guide for the Senators and their media following. “It’s going to be extra special going back to my hometown for a few days to play an exhibition game and show the guys around. I’ve been bragging about Gothenburg for 12 years, now they’re going to see if I’m a liar or not.”