CHICAGO – The speed is still there and Michael Frolik often uses it defensively while backchecking and putting a halt to opposing attacks.
It’s the other end of the rink that has given Frolik some trouble, both this year for the Chicago Blackhawks and in his four-year career as a whole. Frolik has scored five goals and added six assists while playing in 40 games this season, but he has yet to turn that impressive speed and skill combination into a full-on explosion of offense.
Now that star forward Patrick Sharp will miss three to four weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury, Frolik’s role will change – at least initially. After playing the wing for most of this season, Frolik will likely center the second line to start Tuesday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (8:30 p.m.) at the United Center.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had rookie Ben Smith on the left wing of Frolik’s line and star Marian Hossa on the right side.
“I played here last year a few games at center and it’s just a different mind-set a little bit,” said Frolik, who was acquired last year in a trade that sent former Hawks speedster Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers. “It’s more responsibility down low and for sure it’s a good opportunity. We’ll see how it goes tonight. Hopefully it’s going to be good.”
It’s going to be a little tougher than playing the wing, too. Frolik will have some faceoff and defensive coverage duties to handle that he didn’t have to worry about while playing wing.
“It’s more work, but I don’t mind it,” Frolik said. “You’re kind of more (involved in) the game and you get the puck more. You’re in the middle, so you get more pucks. I don’t really mind it.”
Of course, what’s not to mind when playing with Hossa – Chicago’s leading scorer with 44 points?
“He’s one of the best in the League and it’s a great opportunity to play with him,” Frolik said. “We can talk to each other, too – same language. It’s kind of good. It’s great to play with him for sure.”