Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/18/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 01/18/2014 1:20 PM | Updates
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Paul MAURICE has made some decisions since agreeing to work for the Winnipeg Jets last weekend, and he will undoubtedly make many more.
Most will be traceable to defence in one manner or another.
It'll be hard to argue the priority, given the Jets are still 10 goals under water (138 for, 148 against) heading into today's game at the MTS Centre against the Edmonton Oilers (1 p.m., CBC, TSN 1290).
One of these items concerns the team's top line, which has had another makeover this week.
Maurice has opted for Michael Frolik on the right wing with centre Bryan Little and left-winger Andrew Ladd. Today's game will be just the third for the line which got the ball rolling on Thursday in Calgary with a first-period goal, Little's 16th of the year.
Asked how he came up with this combination, Maurice said he started with defensive reliability.
"We get different analytics than are sometimes just on the scoresheet, but one of our big problems is giving up goals against the other team's best line.
"When you ask yourself the question: 'If you have a one-goal lead, who are the five guys you put on the ice?'... So I started from that point and built from that out."
The numbers bear some witness here. The trio is the only one that contains exclusively plus players for the season. While plus-minus is not the be-all end-all, it does reflect both production and liabilities at even strength.
It seems Frolik, the 25-year-old from the Czech Republic, has been steadily promoted since he hooked up with his new team last September.
Now with 10 goals, 26 points and more responsibility through 48 games, he said Friday he's become used to changes.
"I've never been on a line for a long time," Frolik said. "I don't mind that. If you get put with somebody, I just try to play hard. With some guys you get chemistry better than some other guys. Sometimes you need more time. But so far it's been not bad here.
"Whatever line, we try to talk a lot and try to be on the same page and communicate."
Frolik certainly had something to do with rookie Mark Scheifele's offensive awakening in the last month to six weeks and looks forward to helping out on the top unit.
"(Little and Ladd) are great players, have good skills, and they've been in the league for a while and have some experience," Frolik said. "It's an honour to be with them. I'm trying to enjoy it, have fun with them.
"And it's always nice to be on a top line again. I'm trying to have fun and to enjoy it.
"Hopefully we'll produce."
In his six NHL seasons, Frolik said he's felt some chemistry with Stephen Weiss when they were in Florida, and Marcus Kruger during his time in Chicago.
"Those guys, it didn't take a long time," he said. "We could start to feel the clicking."
What is clicking, specifically?
"When you score some goals, yes. That's one thing. But even if you don't, if something does work, it's communication. That's a big part of it."
There's some foundation peeking through in the Maurice regime, which so far has a tally of 10 goals for and three against, and none against its top line.
"Don't get too excited about the tally (of goals) in two games," the coach said. "The best parts of our game have been in blocks in our end."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 C3
Updated on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 1:20 PM CST: Video and blog box added.
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