ST. PAUL — As well as the Wild played in Thursday’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, they desperately needed a jolt of life midway through the game. Who better to provide it than Marcus Foligno?
The hard-nosed winger has inarguably been the team’s best player over the past few weeks.
Foligno threw his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame into the corner with reckless abandon, pilfered the puck and dished to winger Luke Kunin, who quickly found center Joel Eriksson Ek in the slot for what proved to be the game-winning goal at 12:32 of the second period.
“We were usually out there against their top guys, and that’s the line we want to be,” Foligno said. “To also be rewarded with a point each and get a crucial goal to kind of get us back on top was great.”
Typically known as a big body who happily does the dirty work, Foligno has six points over his past six games and has brought a shot of energy to whatever line coach Bruce Boudreau has asked him to play on.
In 37 games, Foligno has nine goals and 10 assists and is a plus-6.
After a well-deserved promotion a couple of weeks ago, Foligno has found his niche on the checking line alongside Eriksson Ek and opposite Kunin. Not only has that trio worked tirelessly to shut down the opposing team’s top line — as they did against the Lightning — the line become emerged as a viable scoring threat.
“They are playing really well,” Boudreau said. “I just don’t want to give them too much credit because sometimes then it goes the other way. They have been scoring at a goal-per-game pace. That’s much more than we anticipated.”
Ask any of them and they would agree it starts in the defensive zone. Scoring is the cherry on top.
“We just try to do our thing and help in any way possible,” Eriksson Ek said. “We work hard, talk to each other, and of course when we get a few goals together we start to build some chemistry. Hopefully, we can keep playing well and help the team the best way we can. We have to keep doing the right things.”
As much praise as the checking line has gotten as of late, Foligno knows it means nothing if they don’t continue to grow together.
“Don’t jinx us yet,” he said. “We’ve still got a long way to go.”
Nonetheless, everyone involved is enjoying the ride.
“I’m very close with both of them, and that helps,” Foligno said. “We have fun with each other and keep it light. We know how to push each other’s buttons and at the same time, we know how to encourage each other, too. We are always talking and definitely liking the honeymoon phase.”