Marcus Foligno has been playing big minutes. ©2015, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Marcus Foligno looks to brother’s star play for inspiration

BUFFALO – For about 24 hours, Marcus Foligno enjoyed the family’s bragging rights. The Sabres winger felt good after scoring twice Friday, his first goals in 24 games.

Then Foligno’s older brother, Nick, a breakout star with the Columbus Blue Jackets, outdid him Saturday, scoring his first NHL hat trick and hitting the prestigious 30-goal, 70-point marks.

“He had to go out and one-up me,” Marcus Foligno joked Monday prior to the Sabres’ 4-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes inside the First Niagara Center. “I gave him a nasty text message. He got the message after that.”

Kidding aside, Foligno’s happy his brother, an NHL All-Star Game captain in January, has morphed into a star in his eighth NHL season.

“To see him having the year he’s had, it’s been pretty inspirational for me,” he said.

Nick Foligno, Ottawa’s 2007 first-round pick, showcased glimpses of stardom in his first seven seasons, although the 27-year-old never scored more than 18 goals or 47 points.

Marcus Foligno could follow a similar path. He occasionally looks like a dominant power forward, using his 6-foot-3, 223-pound body to create space and some soft hands to score goals in bunches. Still, three years into his career, he hasn’t harnessed much consistency.

“There’s the guys that reach their peak at 30, 29, 28,” Foligno said. “For a guy like me that’s 23, you got to work every day to get better.”

Foligno’s work has regularly earned Sabres coach Ted Nolan’s praise. Nolan kept awarding him big ice time as his goal drought dragged on, skating him 19 or 20 minutes most nights on the second line. Foligno played a season-high 21 minutes, 50 seconds in Wednesday’s 4-3 win against Toronto.

“He’s going to be a big part of the future in this organization, this team,” Nolan said. “There’s no better time than right now to give him those minutes and give him that experience and give him that when he’s tired and he’s got to learn to get out. Those are all the requirements of the top two, three lines. When you’re tired, you got to keep going. Plus he’s been playing really well for us.

“So I think (Wednesday) was arguably one of the best games he’s played for us all season.”

Nolan thinks “the sky’s the limit” for Foligno, someone he projects as a second- or third-liner. Foligno has been playing on the left wing with center Mikhail Grigorenko and Brian Gionta, the team’s second line.

“He’s big,” Nolan said about Foligno. “He hits hard. He’s not afraid. He goes to the net. He’s got hockey intelligence.”

Foligno, who has eight goals, believes he was a “little bit overdue” before scoring for the first time since Feb. 8 in the Sabres’ 4-3 loss to Chicago. He had to do something with all that ice time.

“I feel that my game has been more consistent, too,” he said. “I think the work ethic was always there every night. Maybe that was one reason I kept getting those minutes.”

Sabres defenseman Mike Weber will undergo season-ending surgery for a sports hernia, Nolan said. Weber hasn’t played since Wednesday.

Meanwhile, winger Matt Moulson (sick) returned after a two-game absence. The Sabres scratched Tim Schaller.

Update: The Sabres have assigned Schaller and goalie Andrey Makarov to the AHL.

In goalie news, Matt Hackett (soreness) still can’t skate and Chad Johnson (ankle) is skating on his own, Nolan said.

The Rochester Americans, a team decimated by recalls, have signed 18-year-old Sabres draft picks Eric Cornel and Brycen Martin to amateur tryouts.

Cornel, a center selected 44th in June, had 14 goals and 52 points in 66 games this season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes. He has 43 goals and 130 points in 197 OHL games.

Martin, a defenseman picked 74th, had seven goals and a career-high 38 points in 69 games with the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos and Saskatoon Blades. He has 15 goals and 94 points in 211 WHL games.

Sabres defenseman Andre Benoit left the game with an undisclosed injury.

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