Michael Frolik had the defensive game this season. He’s been good on the penalty kill, too. Scoring? Well, there’s been more frustration than goals, again, this season.
But in the absence of goals, Frolik’s been strong in other aspects of his game. And that will give him a crack at the Blackhawks’ top line.
Marian Hossa (upper body) is likely out tomorrow against the Los Angeles Kings, so Frolik will get the chance to play with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. It’s a choice opportunity for Frolik, whose defensive work has been strong all season. Coach Joel Quenneville said he’s earned the chance.
“He’s been good,” he said. “His play, overall, has been very consistent. He doesn’t have the production to reflect how well he’s been playing. Penalty killing, 5-on-5 -- that line on that last trip was very efficient -- the finish is the one area where it’d be nice if he were a little more patient, comfortable. He’s going to get some higher-quality opportunities. Don’t force it. But if you’re in the offensive areas, cash in.”
[RELATED: Hossa likely out Monday; Shaw should go]
Frolik hasn’t cashed in since he scored the game-winner against the Kings in the season opener on Jan. 19. Granted, the fourth line isn’t exactly a bastion of offensive production -- fourth-line Marcus Kruger has the most points of any fourth liner, with three goals and seven assists. Still, Frolik has had his chances. Nuch like his first season-plus with the Blackhawks, however, scoring has been sparse.
“I don’t have many points but my game is there,” Frolik said. “Hopefully I can have more chances now and do something (on the top line). Goals aren’t going in. But the team is playing great and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Frolik’s done his part on the defensive and penalty killing side. He’s been good at both, and has a plus-4 rating this season -- he was a minus-10 in 2011-12. Frolik didn’t do any penalty-kill work until he joined the Blackhawks during the 2010-11 season, but he’s caught on pretty quick. And with goals not coming, he’s hung his hat on what’s worked.
“Last year I was pretty hard on myself, just put too much pressure on myself. When it doesn’t go in you just thinking about it,” Frolik said of past goal droughts. “I try not to worry about points and goals and just help the team how I can.”
The fourth liners had a good road trip and Quenneville didn’t hesitate to put them in bigger situations. Frolik said that helps.
“The last few games (Quenneville) wasn’t afraid to put us against top lines. That’s a good feeling; it helps with your confidence when you play against those lines,” he said. “You feel like you’re a part of the team.”
Frolik is the latest to get a chance on the top line. Daniel Carcillo had hardly any time on it -- or on the ice, for that matter -- in the Blackhawks’ last game. Patrick Kane double shifted a lot, and will probably double shift a bit again on Monday. Frolik will probably get more of an opportunity tomorrow, considering his solid play throughout this season. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll bust out of those goal-less doldrums.
“There’s been consistency in his game game. He’s gotten to that level where we’re pleased with his play,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully he can be comfortable on the offensive side of things.”