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Days come and go, and so do his linemates, but Michael Frolik stays the same.
The 31-year-old Calgary Flames winger and veteran of 825 games remains one of the most consistently hard-working players on the team.
First on the ice. Last to leave. Always sitting in his stall afterwards, a notoriously finicky individual who loves tinkering with his skates, his laces, his sticks, his equipment.
Even during the rollercoaster ride of the 2019-20 season — which has seen highs and lows for himself, personally, and the team — Frolik continues to show up to the office every day with his lunch bucket.
Right now, with three goals and an assist and points in his last three games, he’s on a high.
A month ago, he was a healthy scratch for two straight games.
“It’s hockey, right,” Frolik was saying on Friday as the Flames prepared for a matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes (2 p.m., Sportsnet West, Sportsnet 960 The Fan). “Sometimes you’re down. Sometimes it’s not going in. Sometimes, it can change pretty quickly. It was definitely a tough start for me with the ice time being low and my role kind of changed here a little bit. I still wish I could play a little more. But right now, we’re winning and rolling, so why would we change something?
“It feels good to be part of the team and to help the guys, it feels good. But, in hockey, things can change pretty quickly.”
Frolik, of course, was one third of the now-defunct 3M line of Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk which hasn’t played together since the start of Geoff Ward’s tenure as the interim head coach.
In the past seven games, he’s been played in a variety of different ways and with a variety of different linemates but, recently, he’s been skating with Mark Jankowski and Tobias Rieder which seems to have given him some new-found energy.
That, of course, is just another element of Frolik — doing whatever it takes to contribute to the group’s success, according to Ward.
“He’s an important member of our team,” he said. “He’s one of the guys in our room that has won a Stanley Cup. He’s been through the wars. He’s a real good pro. So, he comes to the rink every day, he works hard, he’s an example for our young players. And, he’s all about the team. He gives himself to the team 100 per cent. He’s one of the most selfless players I’ve ever been around. For him to start getting rewarded is nice.
“Guys are happy for him. He does an awful lot of those thankless jobs that no one notices. But at the end of the night, they make a difference.”
That includes being part of the Flames’ penalty kill, at times. And, lately, taking a backseat to some of the other players when it comes to time on ice. In Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs, he was effective in 9:13 of ice time with the go-ahead goal 1:59 into the third period. In his last five games, he’s hovered around the eight-to-10-minute mark of ice time, apart from 13:09 he spent against the Arizona Coyotes (which saw him score once and nab an assist).
It might not be his ideal scenario — who doesn’t want to play more and log more ice-time? — but Frolik is being a good soldier and contributing when he can, however the team wants him to.
“Playing nine or 10 minutes a game, I still feel like I have the energy to play more,” he said. “But, I think, we still have 50 games left and that can change. We were only a couple games (under) the new coach so I just want to make sure I’m working hard and the opportunity or chance is going to come to be bumped up in the lineup and I just have to make sure I’m ready for it.
“As a line, we’re doing OK — pretty good. And when you’re on a roll, you don’t want to change things.”
With seven straight wins under their belts, change — at the moment — is not necessary.
The Flames are also rolling with four lines right now and have some new-found scoring depth, thanks to Frolik.
Ward’s encouragement to all of the players is simple: get the puck, try to score.
But it’s created a sense of freedom for a group that was collectively squeezing their sticks.
Prior to his goal-scoring streak, he’d been blanked in 11 straight dates and only had one measly assist since being healthy scratched twice on Nov. 7 and Nov. 9.
Ward wouldn’t comment on what the usage of Frolik had been prior to his appointment to interim head coach on Nov. 27.
But he just knows things are clicking for Frolik — and everyone else, seemingly — now.
“I don’t know exactly how or what the scenarios were to (send Frolik) over the boards,” Ward said. “It would just be speculation on my part. But what we’ve tried to do is just roll four lines, basically. We tried to give everybody a role and tried to let them know what that role is.
“And now, we’re challenging them to expand that role. So, as a result, I feel like he’s committed, and he’s invested, and he’s accountable, and, as result, he’s playing some real good hockey for us.”
MUSIC TO THEIR EARS
The music was cranked again at the Scotiabank Saddledome as the Flames hit the ice on Friday.
It’s been a rotating playlist as interim head coach Ward has given the iPod over to a different player each game, who relays a handful of songs to equipment manager Mark DePasquale to play over the building’s loudspeakers.
While the music selections have ranged from Queen to Elton John to Kenny Chesney, Friday’s tunes were a little more … ‘Dad-rock’ inspired?
No wonder, considering the team’s elder statesman and captain Mark Giordano was the man behind the music on this day, selecting Pearl Jam’s Better Man and Alive , and kicked things off with a pair of Linkin Park songs: One Step Closer and In The End .
As of yet, there’s no confirmation on when Ward’s favourites will hit the airwaves.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019