Apr 14, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Marcus Foligno (82) and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing J.T. Wyman (34) fight for the puck during the game at the First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Lightning 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres Preseason: The Case For Marcus Foligno

Buffalo Sabres fans, welcome to the third installment of my look at the roster of the blue and gold.  So far, I have played the Devil’s Advocate when it comes to whether or not Patrick Kaleta and Matt Hackett deserve to be on the Sabres’ roster come opening day.  Today, I mix things up a bit by making the case for why Marcus Foligno should start the season alongside Cody Hodgson and Thomas Vanek on the Sabres’ first line.

Sep 17, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Marcus Foligno (82) flies over Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) and makes a goal during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Last week I wrote a piece entitled, Playing Frankenstein: Buffalo Sabres Lines By Me.  In this post, I buried Marcus Foligno on my fourth line, along with Brian Flynn and Patrick Kaleta.   My reasoning was pretty simple: Foligno really hasn’t produced enough to move up to a scoring line.  His 5 goals, 18 points and +/- of -4 from last year really don’t impress, so why not put him on a line with Kaleta and let him harass the crap out of the opposition?

Well, that’s certainly one train of thought.  However, following his two-goal effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night, it’s time to play the Devil’s Advocate and make the case that Foligno may, in fact, be exactly what Hodgson and Vanek need to solidify the first line.

In his almost twenty-one minutes of ice time, Foligno managed four shots, two hits, and a +1 rating.  Nice – but it’s the preseason, so those numbers mean exactly nothing.  What does matter, however, is Foligno’s style of play.  For starters, he’s 6’3″ and weighs 226 pounds, so he gives the Sabres’ first line a physical presence that it otherwise lacks.  He’ll do the sort of dirty work we have not seen from the first line recently, such as backcheck hard, bang bodies, and fight for the puck up along the boards.   He’ll be a nice compliment to a line that, so far, is actually a bit of a liability to the team when it is not in the offensive zone.

The part of Foligno’s game that is most appealing come on offense, where he’ll crash the net and make life miserable for opposing goalies, just as he did against the Blue Jackets.  Again, he can do the dirty work, allowing Vanek to find open space and set up his shot.  Foligno will go hard after rebounds, and will screen the goaltender on shots from the point.  His physical style of play will also draw a lot of penalties, a fact that would excite me more if the Buffalo Sabres had a powerplay worth a damn!  Still, I’d rather the Sabres play a man up than a man down, even if they score on only 17% of those chances.

Foligno still has a lot to prove – namely, that he can provide consistent efforts night in and night out – but his size and skill sets would be a nice compliment to Thomas Vanek and Cody Hodgson.  It’s not an idea I am fully onboard with yet, but the more I think about it, the more I see his inclusion on the first line as a tantalizing possibility.

What do you think – could Foligno complete the first line?  Or will he continue to be a third or fourth line player?  Share you thoughts below, or @theamazingMrS!

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