Before it happened, the first day, we said it was going to be four to six weeks. I think now we are on [week] four. So, we'll see how this week how it goes and how I feel. I think we're in that week range right now. - Michael Frolik on when he would like to be back in the lineup
CALGARY, AB -- Michael Frolik has never been in this position before.
The 27-year-old is in the midst of his eighth season in the NHL but has been incredibly fortunate in that he has never suffered a major injury.
His career-low 63 games with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011-12 wasn't the byproduct of injuries; he was a healthy scratch for stretches of time that year, limiting his offensive production to just five goals and 15 points that season.
Suffice to say, being relegated to solo skates over the last couple of weeks have been a trying experience for the winger.
"I was skating right before the guys [practiced], alone or with Ryan [Van Asten]. It was kind of, most of the time, just skating and a little bit of handling the puck. Obviously, it's a little bit tough here. I was never hurt in this league for that long so it kind of sucks. It's new for me."
But now, nearly a month after he suffered an upper body injury in the Flames' 2-1 overtime win in Nashville, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Frolik fully participated in the Flames lengthy practice on Saturday morning and has been officially cleared for contact.
He was, however, wearing a bright yellow jersey to alert his teammates of his non-contact status. The team is easing Frolik back into the physical side of the game, starting with basic battles along the boards to test his strength and resistance.
Taking hits and dishing out checks weren't on the agenda during his first team practice since Dec. 15.
"It was nice to be there with the boys," he said. "It's kind of boring to skate by yourself. It was definitely nice to be out there. I don't think we're quite 100 percent there yet but hopefully it's going to be soon. Have a couple good practices and be ready for the game.
"The contact, we tried a little bit today for the first time. It didn't hurt that much, so it's a good sign. But it's still, in battling, you can feel it a little bit. I think it's just trying to build the confidence on that and make sure I'm strong enough to battle, make sure I'm 100 percent."
Today also offered up a better evaluation of Frolik's range of motion. He was taking shots and stick handling while he was skating on his own but hasn't been able to do so in game-like situations until today.
"The stick handling, handling the puck, it's pretty good," was his evaluation. "Shooting is pretty good too. Obviously I didn't take a big one-timer or something like that. But wrist shots ad handling the puck, it's pretty good."
A silver lining during Frolik's recovery process has been that it has given a minor, nagging malady a chance to settle down and heal.
"I had a bad finger too," he explained. "I had a little crack in my finger. It was kind of tough here so far but hopefully, it gets better after this and I stay healthy."
Now, it's a matter of waiting for Frolik and the medical staff to feel comfortable enough to be back in the lineup. While he has gained a lot of ground physically over the past few weeks, he still needs to get a bit stronger and be mentally prepared for a game. He must be confident in his abilities and that his injury has healed before he gets the go-ahead from the coaching staff.
"Frols is the ultimate pro," head coach Bob Hartley said. "The way that he prepares, the way that he practices ... you look at his games and it's a true reflection of how he goes about his business. It's great to see him.
"There's no timetable yet. He's close. It definitely not be next game. But he's right there. Just to get him a feel to test the shoulder. He's been skating, he's been shooting tons of pucks. But he's been skating by himself. Hitting the boards and everything is an okay indication but now we'll put him with some players and we'll get him to battle."
When asked if he had a target date in mind, Frolik didn't specify a game but is hopeful he'll be ready to go in the very near future.
"Before it happened, the first day, we said it was going to be four to six weeks. I think now we are on [week] four. So, we'll see how this week how it goes and how I feel. I think we're in that week range right now."
While Frolik has been sidelined, the Flames have gone 5-5-0 and the coaching staff have shuffled their forward lines on multiple occasions. Getting him back in the lineup could bring stability to the right side and garner consistency with offensive production.
"Here's a guy that can create with his speed," Hartley stated. "He goes hard at the net. Defensively, he's very committed. He plays the full 200-feet. With those kind of guys, they make you win."
NOTES: Karri Ramo did not practice today. Hartley confirmed it was a recovery day for the goaltender ... The Flames changed up their forward lines during the skate. Here are the lines run on Saturday: Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett - Markus Granlund - Josh Jooris, Lance Bouma - Mikael Backlund - David Jones, and Joe Colborne/Mason Raymond - Matt Stajan - Brandon Bollig.