Frolik, Kruger hit penalty-killing niche
Michael Frolik, seen at right in practice with Marian Hossa, is willing to play any role Quenneville wants — including kill penalties.
Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer
When Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was putting together his forward combinations for the penalty killing unit, there was something about Michal Frolik and Marcus Kruger he liked.
So far Quenneville's instincts have been right on.
Frolik and Kruger were instrumental in Sunday's overtime win over Detroit, leading a 6-for-6 penalty killing charge as the Hawks won for a franchise record sixth straight time to start the season.
For the season, the Hawks have been short-handed 23 times and killed 22 of the minor penalties. Frolik and Kruger have been front and center.
"They've got quickness," Quenneville said. "Whether it's up-ice pressure, they get back in the zone quickly, they can pressure in the neutral zone. It seems like we've got a little bit more of an active PK instead of it being predictable."
Frolik and Kruger also eat up minutes that in the past have gone to Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland.
"Our top guys aren't out there logging some hard minutes," Quenneville said.
Frolik is willing to play any role Quenneville wants.
"I'm kind of an offensive guy so sometimes I want to be on the board, but right now if my role is to play the PK, I will and leave everything on the ice," Frolik said.
"We haven't had much time to work on it so we're just trying to stick to the plan and make quick changes. We want to play high energy on the PK, put the pressure on them when we have a chance. So far it's working."
Frolik and Kruger have seemingly found chemistry playing together on the fourth line and killing penalties.
"He's a smart player," Frolik said. "He's from Europe so maybe there's a little bit of that there. We try to talk a lot on the ice and off the ice and try to get better every night. Like I said, there's not much time to work on things so we're trying to be on the same page."
Kruger, who spent most of last season as the second line center, is playing with more confidence than ever on the fourth line and as a penalty killer.
"We try to take pride in doing that job," Kruger said. "I just try to take it day by day and do the work the coaches want me to do out there. We're feeling pretty good right now. We're off to a good start so there's nothing to complain about."
The penalty killers have been put to the test in the six-game winning streak and have met the challenge to this point.
"We try to outwork them as hard as we can," Kruger said. "We take pride in doing the preparation for the games and learn everything about their power play."
It's not only Kruger and Frolik leading the way. Defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya have also contributed to the cause in front of goalie Corey Crawford while Toews, Hossa, Sharp and Bolland have had their moments in the spotlight.
"It's the forwards and defense blocking shots and the key saves by Crow," Quenneville said. "It's been a group effort."
Crawford sees a team doing the little things necessary to win.
"We're able to force teams to the outside and it seems like every time a team tries to take it to the middle we're able to cut it off," Crawford said.
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