Blackhawks’ Frolik, Kruger finding success on penalty kill
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org January 28, 2013 8:37PM
Hawks winger Michael Frolik plays a tight defense on Detroit winger Drew Miller in the third period of the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings Sunday January 27, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: January 28, 2013 9:13PM
This isn’t a role winger Michael Frolik ever expected or wanted — a fourth-liner, a penalty-killer, a grinder.
As the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft and a guy who scored 21 goals in each of his first two seasons with the Florida Panthers, Frolik figured he’d be a top-line mainstay, a guy asked to score goals, not to prevent them.
‘‘Obviously, as a player, you want more ice time and you want to play offense,’’ Frolik said.
It’s not a role center Marcus Kruger expected, either.
Sure, when he came to Chicago late in the 2010-11 season, he wanted to learn to be a more well-rounded player, a two-way guy such as Jonathan Toews. But he always fancied himself an
offensive guy first, and his solid numbers in Sweden backed up that belief.
‘‘Everyone’s looking for more ice time, right?’’ Kruger said. ‘‘Everyone wants to score goals.’’
But the Blackhawks don’t need Frolik and Kruger to score a lot of goals — not with guys such as Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp roaming the ice on the top two lines.
The Hawks need responsible fourth-liners, guys who can play well enough to give the stars a breather no matter whom the opposing coach sends over the boards, who can provide depth and who can kill penalties.
So Frolik and Kruger
accepted their roles and so far have risen to the challenge.
As a fourth line — playing alongside Brandon Bollig or Jamal Mayers — Frolik and Kruger have been logging 11 or 12 minutes a game, a
necessity with so many games in so few days. And they have been a big part of a penalty kill that has helped the Hawks to a franchise-record 6-0 start, with oppo-
nents having scored only once on 23 power plays.
Kruger and Frolik were standout performers Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings, each logging more than five minutes on the PK — more than any other Hawks forwards — and successfully killing all six of the Red Wings’ power plays, including three in a row during a crucial second-period stretch.
Kruger actually took the first of those penalties and was in the box during a 43-second 5-on-3 for the Red Wings. Once that was killed off, though, Kruger raced out of the box and immediately cleared the puck. The Red Wings brought the puck back into the zone, and Kruger promptly did it again.
‘‘We just try to outwork them as hard as we can,’’ Kruger said. ‘‘We take pride in doing the preparation
before the game and [learning] everything about their power play. That’s an ongoing process all year, so we have to keep building on that.’’
With only five days of training camp and hardly any in-season practice time, Kruger and Frolik have spent extra hours watching video and talking with each other, hashing out the best ways
to attack opposing power-play units.
‘‘He’s a smart player, and we try to talk a lot on the ice and off the ice and try to get better every night,’’ said Frolik, who indicated their European backgrounds — Kruger is from Sweden and Frolik from the Czech Republic — has helped their chemistry. ‘‘We don’t have much time to practice those things, so we have to make sure we talk and do all those things.’’
Frolik scored on an assist from Kruger in the first period of the season opener against the Los Angeles Kings, but the two have been kept off
the scoresheet since. They have had their chances, but they haven’t been able to bury them.
No matter. That’s not their job. Not anymore, at least.
‘‘I’m kind of an offensive guy, so I want to be sometimes on the board,’’ Frolik said. ‘‘But I take my role right now. And if my role is to play the PK, I will. And I’ll leave everything on the ice.’’