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Blackhawks move Michael Frolik to top line

After playing third line all seasMichael Frolik will joJonathan Toews Patrick Sharp first line. | Glenn James~Getty Images

After playing on the third line all season, Michael Frolik will join Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp on the first line. | Glenn James~Getty Images

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The facts: 7, CSN, 720-AM.

Updated: December 9, 2011 8:20AM

It was a matter of time, really. As good as winger Michael Frolik was in a checking role, coach Joel Quenneville eventually would want to see what he looks like among the top six forwards.

With Quenneville predictably overhauling his lines and pairings after the debacle Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks, Frolik will get that look.

“You don’t mind making changes on a merit basis,” Quenneville said. “Guys will get different opportunities and get a chance to enhance their opportunity going forward.”

Frolik has spent all 14 games this season on the checking line with Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell, a combination that found instant success last postseason. But after the Hawks allowed 10 goals in their last two games, Quenneville apparently has seen enough of them.

Frolik now will be counted on to be more offensive on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp.

“Your first focus always has to be to play defense,” Frolik said. “But for sure it’s an offensive line. And for sure they’re going to expect goals from us. Hopefully, we can do it.”

With Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa clicking together, it has been tough finding suitable linemates for Toews. The missing production from the first line has hurt.

Frolik has been snakebitten since his acquisition from the Florida Panthers last season, and his three goals this season (a soft one from past the left circle on Roberto Luongo, an empty-netter and a score after a bad turnover) aren’t exactly confidence-builders. But he does have two 21-goal seasons on his resume. Quenneville also likes that he’s sound defensively more often than not.

“[Toews is] pretty strong on the puck,” Frolik said. “He’s an offensive skilled guy. He can do things you don’t expect. He’s a great player. But I think I’m kind of skilled, too. I think it’s going to work between us.”

Hossa and Kane think Frolik has untapped offensive potential. The 23-year-old is only in his fourth season in the NHL.

“He can be a guy that’s a top-line player,” Kane said. “He can do a lot of different things.”

Hossa believes that Frolik’s experience against the opponents’ best lines will be beneficial.

“It’s good for him because he’s developing into a better two-way player,” Hossa said. “For the future, it’s just going to be great for him because he’s got so much potential offensively. Now he’s learning how to shut down the top lines.

“The good thing is that he’s still a younger player, and you can see he’s playing with more confidence than last year. He’s got lots of skill. I think the older he gets, he’s going to get better and better. I believe that. He’s got it in him.”

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