With the Stanley Cup playoffs set to begin next week, it’s the time of year when injured players usually begin to become lineup options once again for teams like the Boston Bruins. That’s the case with forward Nick Foligno, who missed the final 22 games of the regular season with a lower body injury that had him in a leg brace and crutches in the weeks following the issue.
He jokingly said a few days ago he was going to “make some threats” wherever it was warranted to make sure he was in the lineup to start the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it certainly appears that has worked to have him on track to play in Game 1 for the Boston Bruins after being out since the end of February.
Nick Foligno on his availability for Game 1:
"I think I've made all the threats I need to make to everybody. So hopefully that did the trick and I'll be back for Game 1." https://t.co/NwfwvoyjJP
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 15, 2023
“This is my favorite time of year,” said Foligno, who had 10 goals and 26 points in 60 games and essentially became the leader of the bottom-6 forward group that was so good for the Black and Gold this season. “You try not to be the old vet, but 16 years in you just get through 82 [games] to this point. I think we’ve done a great job of putting ourselves in a great position and now it’s back to zero and an opportunity to go chase this and make this year as special as we feel that it is.”
Fast forward to this week, though, and the 34-year-old Foligno had finally ditched the non-contact sweater at practice and looked good at Saturday’s grueling skate on the fourth line with Tomas Nosek and Garnet Hathaway. Certainly, it’s going to be a competitive situation on that fourth line with AJ Greer and Jakub Lauko as very viable options as well, but a healthy Foligno should have a leg up based on the experience, leadership and offensive upside that he can bring to the table.
He’s just feeling good without any restrictions due to injury, and no salary cap to worry about either when it comes to recovery timetables either.
“I feel great. Physically and mentally, just really good,” said Foligno, who is also the Boston Bruins nominee for the Masterton Trophy this season in recognition of his perseverance and dedication to the game of hockey. “Used the time wisely that I had, unfortunately, been given to reset in a lot of ways, too, and [to] be ready for this. You’re not promising anything, obviously, but just being the best version of myself and for this club.
“That’s what we’ve always ask of every guy coming back from injury. And I feel like this time has really given me that opportunity and I’m looking forward to being back with [the] guys there.”
Saturday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena was actually at least partially built for Foligno and Forbort to reacclimate to simulated game speed after spending long stretches on the shelf due to injury. It means holding banged up veterans like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand out of the fray, but also getting a real gauge on the returning players ability to ramp up to playoff speed.
“The reason I wanted to have a hard practice with some scrimmage involved is because we’re looking at [Nick] Foligno and [Derek] Forbort, and we want to see where their conditioning at game speed is and see how they react to that,” said Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery. “Then we see how their bodies adjust to it tomorrow.
“I thought Foligno looked really good, and I thought Forbort looked like he had a little rust on him.”
Will Foligno be ready for Game 1 on Monday night against the Florida Panthers? It certainly feels that way based on the signs that we’re seeing at practice and around the team, and that’s a good things for a Boston Bruins team that could use experienced, hardnosed veterans like Foligno that have been there and done that in the playoffs many, many times.