Michael Frolik’s role with Calgary diminished this season. ©2020, Dan Hickling, Hickling Images

Sabres newcomer Michael Frolik arrives in Buffalo ready for new opportunity

BUFFALO – Michael Frolik’s whirlwind Tuesday started around 6:30 a.m. in Toronto. After waking up, the Sabres newcomer headed to the U.S. Embassy.

After a trip back to the hotel, Frolik returned around 3 or 4 p.m. and picked up his visa – he said it was approved in just one day – and left for Buffalo. But traffic added nearly an hour to the drive, so the Czech arrived around 7:30 p.m.

Five days after the Sabres acquired Frolik from the Calgary Flames for a fourth-round draft pick, he had finally made it to Buffalo. Still, his day wasn’t over.

As Frolik waited in Calgary for the visa process to start, he only skated twice at a local rink. So he wanted to get back on the ice in Buffalo right away.

At 8:30 p.m., Frolik enjoyed a solo skate at KeyBank Center.

“It was a little skate, I need to feel the legs a little bit,” Frolik said following Wednesday’s practice.

While the affable Frolik, 31, has only skated once with his new teammates, Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said he will “definitely” play in tonight’s road game against the St. Louis Blues.

Frolik practiced at left wing Wednesday beside center Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary. The veteran also took reps killing penalties.

“He was flying out there and you can see he went for a little skate (Tuesday) night here with nobody around so he could warm up the blades,” Krueger said. “But he’s definitely hungry and extremely engaging. He’s everything that the information on him was as far as his off-ice presence. His confidence and his personality fits into our group really well right off the hop.

“But we definitely sense a passion for this challenge and a hunger to want to be here.”

Perhaps Frolik’s presence can ignite the Sabres, who have struggled following their fast start this season. They’ve won two straight games but have lost five straight road contests (0-4-1)

“Whenever you add something or change something, it adds a little bit of a spark,” Johansson said. “You could see it out there, it looked like he was having fun. That kind of spreads around the team as well.”

Right now, having recently lost wingers Victor Olofsson (lower body) and Jeff Skinner (upper body) to injuries, the Sabres sorely need a boost up front.

“This definitely brings energy at a good time,” Krueger said of Frolik’s arrival. “We’re having to dig deep into our resources to maintain the pace that we’re expecting from each other right now. His leadership dealing with these kind 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.”

Frolik has endured a tough season. After spending most of his career with the Flames skating on the second line, his minutes dropped. He was even a healthy scratch.

The Sabres, Frolik’s fifth NHL team, offer him a fresh start.

Frolik is the second-oldest player on the active roster behind goalie Carter Hutton, who’s 35. He has played more games (831) than anyone on the Sabres.

Krueger said he wants Frolik to “just play free and play naturally within the principles.”

“We have to be patient on him automating those principles and we’re not going to overload him here,” Krueger said. “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.”

Krueger said the coaches would show Frolik some video clips on the flight to St. Louis and give him more information today “on a need-to-know basis.”

“If he’s lost, playing with Marcus is going to help a lot,” Krueger said. “He’s a good sidekick for him here early on to support him in the process. But let’s let Michael play, let’s bring his strengths into the game and be patient, of course, with the process.”

Frolik, who won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, has evolved over his 12 NHL seasons. He scored 21 goals in each of his first two years.

“When I got to Chicago (in 2011), there was a lot of offense there, so I got to switch roles a little bit to have more (ice time) and learn the PK and shut down the other lines and play more defensive,” Frolik said.

Frolik has compiled five goals, 10 points and a minus-10 rating while averaging a career-low 11 minutes 56 seconds of ice time over 38 games this season. The Flames regularly utilized him as a penalty killer.

“I had a great few years there,” he said. “I’m looking for more here in Buffalo.”

Sabres captain Jack Eichel and winger Kyle Okposo practiced Wednesday after sitting out for maintenance Tuesday.

The Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts traded Sabres forward prospect Matej Pekar to the Sudbury Wolves on Wednesday in exchange for five draft picks.

Pekar, 19, has scored 16 goals and 29 points in 26 games this season.

The former fourth-round pick recently returned from the World Junior Championship in his native Czech Republic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *