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Nordstrom hopes to carve own role with Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger /

CHICAGO -- Michael Frolik's replacement on the Chicago Blackhawks would like it to be known that he's no "Fro," even if his skill set is pretty similar to the former penalty-killing wing on the fourth line.

Instead, 21-year-old rookie forward Joakim Nordstrom hopes to make his own impact in Chicago, while starting out playing right wing on the fourth line and likely getting the penalty-killing minutes that Frolik absorbed on the way to the 2013 Stanley Cup.

"I would be happy to be that guy, but I don't want to replace him," Nordstrom said of Frolik, who was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in the offseason. "I want to be the player that I am, but for sure I think that we have the same qualities as players. Killing penalties is one of my biggest strengths. That's what I want to bring to the team and everything else too."

Nordstrom, who was selected by Chicago with the 90th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, will get his first crack at it when the Blackhawks open the 2013-14 season by hosting the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

After playing exclusively in Sweden to start his career, Nordstrom joined the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League for 11 games last season. In 43 games with AIK Solna in Sweden, he added three assists for Rockford, racking up a combined 41 penalty minutes between the two stops.

He then came into training camp in September and quickly impressed Chicago coach Joel Quenneville with his quickness and drive. He never let up and now is about to start a Stanley Cup defense with the Blackhawks, aiming to have a similar impact to Frolik last season.

"I know what I can do out there and that's always been my focus, what I'm supposed to do out there," Nordstrom said. "I know how I want to play and contribute to the team. I think I had a good camp, so maybe I wasn't thinking of this before I went to training camp, but it was always a possibility. It feels good now and that doesn't matter anymore. This is when the hard work kicks in. It’s 'go-time' now."

His teammates, meanwhile, are anxious to see what Nordstrom can do in the role he's earned, including 23-year old Swedish fourth-line center Marcus Kruger. Both are from Stockholm, and were friends prior to this training camp.

"He had a strong training camp and made the team, so we're all really excited here for him," Kruger said, following Chicago's morning skate on Tuesday. "He's a smart player. Whatever you tell him, he understands and he's been showing that pretty quick. He's an easy guy to play with. It's a lot of new stuff for him and he probably has a lot of new thoughts going through his mind, but I just told him to trust his instincts because he's a good player. He's going to be fine if he plays his game."

Brandon Bollig, who will start at left wing on that fourth line against the Capitals on Tuesday night, also likes what he's seen from Nordstrom in the preseason and throughout camp. The Frolik comparison, he said, isn't a stretch.

"Fro's a great player and he did well for us for a reason, but [Nordstrom's] obviously a hard-working player and fits right into that fourth-line role and that penalty-killing spot that we needed," Bollig said. "You need a hard-working guy, who's going to go into corners, and that's exactly what we have."

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