Michael Frolik played 13:41 against the Arizona Coyotes on March 28. He’s averaged 15:49 in ice time this season, so that number doesn’t exactly raise eyebrows – at least, not until you see he only played three shifts in the third period, while regular linemate Mikael Backlund played seven.
Frolik’s third shift of the third period came about eight minutes after his second: a sign of trying to give it one last go before the decision was made to pull him.
Well, he’s being pulled from more than just the end of the Flames’ 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Frolik will miss the rest of the road trip, which goes into Anaheim tonight, Los Angeles tomorrow, and wraps up in Edmonton on Saturday.
Michael Frolik will miss the remainder of the trip for #Flames
— Roger Millions (@RogMillions) March 30, 2016
A fair number of Flames have had to miss time this season, including Frolik from earlier in the year: he missed 12 games with an upper body injury back in December and January.
Things are a bit different now, though; now, the Flames’ season is basically in zombie mode, staggering to the end as they have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. There really isn’t much left to play for.
That is, unless you’re a prospect trying to fight his way into an NHL spot. In that case, there’s a lot to play for: making a good impression, gaining experience, the thrill of it all. So there’s a silver lining to Frolik’s injury sidelining him for at least the next three games: it means someone else gets to stay up.
We know Frolik is an NHLer, and a pretty good one at that. He doesn’t have a whole lot else left to prove at this level. But someone such as, say, Emile Poirier, who looks to be taking his spot on Backlund’s line tonight? He had a great rookie season for the Heat, only to falter as a sophomore. He still has two years left on his entry level contract after this season, so it’s not as though there’s any rush to get him some looks. But the Flames are short on high quality wingers, and if he can help fill that hole, then his playing in the NHL now does more for both him and the Flames than if it were Frolik in his place.
Frolik’s injury (as well as Johnny Gaudreau and Jyrki Jokipakka’s), coupled with Josh Jooris’ return to the lineup, means nobody has to go back down to the AHL – yet.
Hartley says Gaudreau doing much better, could be back tomorrow. Also says Jokipakka likely back in tomorrow. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) March 30, 2016
Jokipakka’s return means Brett Kulak would have to go back to the Heat, while Gaudreau’s return means one of Poirier or Hunter Shinkaruk will go (Derek Grant is up on a regular recall, so he’s safe) – and between Poirier and Shinkaruk, Shinkaruk has had the more impressive season of the two.
If Frolik misses even more time, then that means more time in the big leagues for one of the two.
The season is on its last legs, and there’s not much left to be done. But having these kids play in the NHL is one last point of interest, and one that could set the tone for the start of next season.