Settling in: Frolik feeling at home with Hawks

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Settling in: Frolik feeling at home with Hawks

Monday, March 7, 2011
Posted: 6:00 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

SUNRISE, Fla. Michael Frolik was a bit surprised when the Florida Panthers traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks in early February.

The 23-year-old forward was one of many young up-and-coming players for the Panthers and was coming off his second consecutive 21-goal season. And theres no doubt he went through an adjustment period with his new team.

The first two games I was running around, I wasnt sure when I should go or not, Frolik said. Right now its much better.

And thats coming through on the score sheet, too.

Frolik, who has two goals and two assists in his last three games, will face his former team for the first time since that Feb. 9 deal when the Blackhawks take on the Panthers Tuesday night. For Frolik, who came here in exchange for Jack Skille, who will be out another 2-4 weeks with an ankle injury, itll be a little strange facing off against his old mates.

I liked to play with those guys and I had a great experience starting here, Frolik said following Mondays practice. But thats the way it goes. (Chicagos) a hockey city and the fans are great there. I like it. Things are better every day and I feel more comfortable.

Frolik said he was surprised when the trade came down. General manager Dale Tallon said the move was to change the dynamic of this team.

We had similar players to Michael, (Rostislav) Olesz and (Evgeny) Dadonov, Tallon said. We needed speed and physicality for our lineup. Were not at that place right now. So it was just a matter of getting a different dynamic to our lineup.

Frolik has settled in nicely with linemates Jake Dowell and Troy Brouwer. Scoring never hurts, especially for a guy who was in a 32-game goal slump before he scored last Wednesday against Calgary. But coach Joel Quenneville liked what Frolik was showing even before the points started coming again.

We talked about it before he started scoring, we thought his overall game was still what we were looking for, he said. Hes a threat around the net, hes dangerous and that line is dangerous a lot of nights. Our team game has improved; we four lines that can score and can make plays. He compliments that side of our game as well.
Tallon settled

Former Blackhawks and current Panthers general manager Dale Tallon doesnt mind the Florida life one bit.

I dont have a snowblower, I dont have to shovel the driveway and my car starts every morning, Tallon said with a laugh.

Tallon, who became the Panthers GM last May, is trying to build his new team in the same successful mode in which he constructed the Blackhawks. His name engraved on the Stanley Cup for his part in creating that 2009-10 winning squad, Tallon said hes now focused on the Panthers.

Once I drank out of the Cup it was closure and I moved on, Tallon said. Everythings great here. Its a great staff, everyones on the same page. After Mondays trade deadline, were looking forward to moving up the barometer.

The young Panthers have struggled again this season, as theyre currently 13th in the Eastern Conference. But Tallon said the potential is there.

There are some good assets here, prior to me being here. Now we just have to keep adding pieces to the puzzle, he said. Well use a similar plan to what we did in Chicago.

Tallon said he still keeps a close relationship with a lot of Blackhawks staff as well as the players well text each other and give each other shots. Its a good group of guys. But I have to cut the cord and move on.

He said he wont be going to the White House with the Blackhawks later this week to meet President Obama. But hes OK with that, too.

Im a Republican anyway, he said with a smile.
Briefly

Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson did not practice on Monday. Keith did not play the last 15 minutes of the Blackhawks 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs after blocking a shot off his right hand. Coach Joel Quenneville said both are expected to play Tuesday against the Panthers.

Goaltender Corey Crawford will get the nod on Tuesday. It will be his 12th consecutive start.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

TSN coaches poll: Wild favored to win West over Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, and have eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the playoffs three times from 2013-15.

But it's the Wild that NHL coaches believe will win the Western Conference this season as we approach the trade deadline.

In his annual midseason poll, TSN's Bob McKenzie surveyed 25 of 30 coaches to vote on multiple categories, such as the league's best player and the team most likely to win it all.

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According to the survey, 11 coaches predicted the Wild will win the West while the Blackhawks and Sharks tied for second with four votes.

As for winning the Stanley Cup, the Washington Capitals are the favorite, earning 10 votes, followed closely by the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins with eight. The Wild and Blackhawks rounded out the poll with three and two votes, respectively.

Joel Quenneville earned one vote as the NHL's best coach, which is three fewer votes than he had last year, despite this year being arguably his most challenging — and best — coaching job since arriving in Chicago, given the youth on the roster.

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Extra incentive fuels Tanner Kero in second stint with Blackhawks

Incentive. For many young prospects trying to latch onto an NHL roster, there's already plenty of it there. It's a chance at playing on a bigger stage, a bigger opportunity for a career and, if you're on a two-way contract, a bigger paycheck.

Tanner Kero already had that incentive but in November, received an even more special one: he and his wife welcomed their first child, a boy. Now when Kero plays, it's not just what it means for him. It's what it means for his family.

"It's been a fun experience. It's something a little extra special that you play for," Kero said. "You get your mind away from the game when you go home. You just relax and enjoy that part of life. It's just something extra to play for and it's been special."

Kero has been making the most of his second shot with the Blackhawks, recording two goals and two assists on the Blackhawks' dads trip. That included a three-point night against the Colorado Avalanche and a building chemistry with line mates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa. 

Coach Joel Quenneville likes what he's seen thus far.

"He did a great job for us," Quenneville said. "Defensively, we like his availability in his own end. We like his positioning offensively. He had a nice couple of games to finish the dads trip but he's been good for us. I like the consistency."

Rockford coach Ted Dent said Kero started playing better in November, not long after Kero became a dad. Whether or not that had anything to do with it Dent didn't know, but the results were there nonetheless.

"I think he'd be the first to say his season started off slow with us and he finally caught his stride, maybe 15-20 games into our season," Dent said. "He was skating better, skating stronger, he had more confidence with the puck and things just came together."

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Kero's line is a good blend of familiarity, defense and skill. Kero and Hinostroza are good friends who played together plenty in Rockford. Hossa is... well, Hossa, and pretty much benefits any line mate.

"It's been good," Kero said. "We've been trying to continue, get some secondary scoring. But we also want to be relied on defensively, be counted on to play in big situations, a defensive draw, at the end of a period or end of a game. We're trying to focus on being good defensively, being simple and hard to play against. We're getting fortunate enough to contribute offensively as well."

Hossa, whose game-winning goal in Boston came off a Kero feed, said the 24-year-old is adapting well.

"Since they called him up he took it to his advantage. Right now he's playing the 200-foot game, [he's] real smart in our zone, doesn't panic, makes the right play at the right time, and he's showing more offensive abilities," Hossa said. "It seems like things are going well for him and we're glad we can help as a third line right now in scoring some important goals. With young players, that's definitely big."

Kero's made an impact and an impression with the Blackhawks. Quenneville said on Sunday that, even when Marcus Kruger returns from his injury, Kero will likely remain where he is – "I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

"That comment tells you the trust level he's gained in Kero," Dent said. "I knew over time that Kero was a player that Q was going to love. I've gotten to know Q over the years and in talking to him I know what he likes in players and it was just a matter of time because Kero's a responsible two-way player. He doesn't cheat the game and he's very aware of his defensive responsibilities and that's what Q loves, first and foremost. A lot of us coaches love that."

Kero is making strides in his second stint with the Blackhawks. He already had plenty of incentive to make an impact on this roster. Now a new father, he has that much more of one.