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FROLIK INTEGRAL IN 3M LINE'S SUCCESS

Michael Frolik's 'underrated' style of play has bolstered he and his linemates' offensive production

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

No one's as yet come up with a catchy nickname to latch onto, a la Mikael Selke. 

There are no unique, oddball visuals setting him apart. A mouthguard, say, incessantly bobbing up and down, side to side, in and out, hither and yon, to and fro, the way a doting grandfather shuffles around his false teeth to delight the grandkids.

Michael Frolik, then, can be considered the Jose Carreras of the Calgary Flames' most consistently effective line.

There's Pavarotti, Domingo and, c'mon … you know … the other guy.

That 'other guy' possessing a pretty fine set of tenor chops himself.

When people think of the vastly-influential 3M Line, Frolik's is invariably the third M that pops to mind.

No matter.

"I don't really look at those personal things, at attention,'' says Frolik with a resigned shrug. "It's nice for Backs and Chucky - they're both great players - but I just try to focus on my game.

"You always want to do well personally but if the team is successful, that's what's important.

"Hopefully we can build something really good here.

"Back when I was in Chicago I didn't have much points but I tried to work hard, be good on the PK. We had other guys, obviously, to score."

Ah, Chicago. Where Frolik reached the pinnacle of his profession in the spring of 2013.

There, in the City By the Lake, Sinatra's kind of town, the sturdy right winger once dubbed "Baby Jagr" from Kladno in the Czech Republic hastily scribbled down notes watching emerging legends.

"The biggest example,'' says Frolik, "would be Jonathan Toews. Great on the ice, a true leader. In the room he tried to do everything to be the best. (Patrick) Kane has so much talent but Toews works so hard. He's always trying to look for new things, better things.

"They say he's a little too serious but there's a reason. When I was there he always knew when to say the right things and when to say nothing at all.

"Olympic gold medals, three Stanley Cups … he's done it all."

Video: DAL@CGY: Frolik rips wrister to open scoring

This season, that 3M Line has done it all, much of the heavy lifting, for the resurgent Flames.

Backhand's stellar play down the middle has drawn richly-warranted Selke attention. Tkachuk's particular, eye-catching blend of corrosive and commanding is already morphing him into a fan favorite.

Meanwhile, in a characteristically quiet, understated style, Frolik has tiptoed to within three points shy of a career-high, 45, set in his rookie NHL season, as a Florida Panther. His dependability is reflected in a healthy plus-14 rating.

"This guy,'' gushes assistant GM Craig Conroy, "is so underrated. People are talking about Backs for the Selke, and rightfully so, but don't forget about Fro.

"He really compliments the other two guys well. Fro may not get a lot of outside attention but everyone in this organization knows what he brings, believe me."

Nowhere, it's safe to say, has coach Glen Gulutzan's defence-translates-into-offence mantra been given more validation than by the 3M Line.

On Friday, Frolik scored a goal, added a helper, hit a post and forced Stars' goaltender Kari Lehtonen into a couple of sharp stops during the Flames' 3-1 trimming of Dallas. Shut off the scoresheet Sunday versus L.A., Frolik nevertheless produced a game-high five shots on goal.

"We put video things together for guys,'' reminded Flames' boss Glen Gulutzan. "I set his to Christmas music, cause he's hit so many posts in the last week, with all the ting-ing going on.

"He's a great pro. Young guys can learn from him - He does the same things diligently, every day. You see it in his game.

"He's there with Gio and other guys like that. You never see their game dip. Sure they have some better than others but they never go below the 80% line. They're always humming about 80.

"He's a real good player for us."

Video: SJS@CGY: Frolik crashes the net, slides home rebound 

Frolik and Backlund have, of course, been paired off much of the time over the past two seasons. The injection of Tkachuk's youthful anarchy has only elevated the whole to new heights.

"First of all, a really good guy,'' says Backlund of his starboard winger. "I like him a lot. Translating onto the ice, he's one of the hardest workers on the team, plays the right side of the puck most of the time. We're pretty familiar with each other by now.

"He just does the little things right. We've clicked really well."

When Frolik signed here as UFA on Jul. 1, 2015, the Flames were a post-season entry, considered among the youthful, up-and-coming contenders.

The subsequent disappointment of last year's playoff miss didn't sit well with anyone. Least of all someone who'd savoured the game's Dom Pérignon only two springtimes earlier.

"There is no better feeling than to be in the playoffs and to be successful,'' says Frolik, now 29, with soft remembrance. "I hope we're going to get back there this year. We're on the right path.

"When I was in Chicago, winning every round, knocking teams out … the best feeling you'll ever have.

"Lifting the Stanley Cup there, that's in the past, I know. But sometimes, when I feel bad or frustrated or I see the Cup somewhere, maybe on TV, I think back and still get the goosebumps.

"To have a chance to do it again, here, would be so cool.

"We have a young team with a bright future.

"Like I said, there is no better feeling.

"I'm not an old guy. Hopefully I live to have that feeling again."

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