Michael Frolik woke up Tuesday around 6 a.m. He picked up his work visa at the U.S. Embassy in Toronto, went back to his hotel for the afternoon and, finally, began his drive to Buffalo around 4 p.m. Traffic on the QEW made the trip take nearly three hours.
It was 7:30 p.m. by the time Frolik arrived at KeyBank Center. An hour later, he was alone on the ice for his first official skate as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
"It was a quick skate, 30 minutes, and it was good," Frolik said. "I needed to feel the ice a little bit before I jumped into it."
Frolik took the ice again Wednesday, albeit with more company. He practiced with his Sabres teammates for the first time, skating on a line with Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary.
Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said that Frolik will be in the lineup against St. Louis on Thursday. In the meantime, the coaching staff will look to strike a balance between getting the forward up to speed on the team's principles and cluttering his mind with too much information.
Video: Practice Report: Frolik arrives in Buffalo
"The important thing when you integrate somebody like that is you want him, like everybody else, to actually just play free and play naturally within the principles," Krueger said. "So, we have to be patient on him automating those principles and we're not going to overload him here.
"He has such a good instinct and you could see his speed already today. His defensive decision making is strong and we feel he's going to slide into the way we want to play quickly. But you don't overload him."
Krueger said the coaches would go over select video clips with Frolik on the flight to St. Louis, then any teaching tomorrow would come on a need-to-know basis. Frolik will play right away on the penalty kill, an area he's been accustomed to throughout his 12-year career.
"In this league there's really no big changes," Frolik said. "It's pretty similar. I think we're going to talk about it a little bit now on the ride on the plane and what the structure is. I think there's probably nothing I haven't seen before. It's pretty standard. We already talked about it a little bit. We'll see how the meeting goes with the coaches and go over the systems and everything. Hopefully, I can jump right into it."
It's no accident that Frolik was skating alongside a fellow veteran in Johansson, which Krueger believes will help ease the transition. Johansson was already seen offering insight on Tuesday, answering Frolik's questions about the system between drills.
Krueger and general manager Jason Botterill have already spoken at length about the intangibles they believe Frolik will add to the group, be it his penalty kill ability, his two-way game at 5-on-5, or his experience of winning a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013.
Another aspect of Frolik's arrival is the added internal competition it brings to the dressing room. The Sabres practiced with 13 forwards on Tuesday and still have Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson working back from injuries. Rasmus Asplund and Curtis Lazar have both found ways to contribute regularly after beginning the season in Rochester, with Scott Wilson looking to do the same following a recall last week.
"This definitely brings energy at a good time," Krueger said. "We're having to dig deep into our resources to maintain the pace that we're expecting from each other right now. Again, his leadership dealing with these kinds of stretches will help us also.
"It's also the competition. We love the internal competition. It raises the level of the group whether it's on defense or offense. You bring in a body with that type of attitude and that type of personality it increases the competition as injured players return and that will be good for us as we move forward."
Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Ralph Krueger
Jack Eichel and Kyle Okposo were both back on the ice after taking maintenance days Tuesday.
Defenseman Lawrence Pilut, meanwhile, practiced on a pair with Rasmus Ristolainen after skating as the seventh defenseman on Tuesday. Here's how the team lined up in its entirety:
74 Rasmus Asplund - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
67 Michael Frolik - 90 Marcus Johansson - 43 Conor Sheary
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
20 Scott Wilson - 27 Curtis Lazar - 13 Jimmy Vesey / 71 Evan Rodrigues
24 Lawrence Pilut - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 33 Colin Miller / 4 Zach Bogosian
62 Brandon Montour - 10 Henri Jokiharju
35 Linus Ullmark
40 Carter Hutton