As previously posted, Alexander Frolov returns to the first line tonight, in place of Teddy Purcell. After Ryan Smyth suffered his upper-body injury, Frolov had one goal in two games on that line before he moved down to partner with rookies Andrei Loktionov and Brayden Schenn over the next two games. Purcell stepped up to the first line but did not generate a point and missed a golden scoring opportunity against Vancouver, when he essentially shot into Roberto Luongo’s glove with the net otherwise empty.
Here’s what Terry Murray said this morning about the Frolov-for-Purcell swap.
MURRAY: “Well, I wanted to give Teddy the opportunity to play there, because I liked what I was seeing in the practices. He had good jump, and whenever I see that kind of energy, normally there is some offensive result. He had some opportunities, as we know, but statistically, at the end of the day there was nothing there to look at. That’s why I’m making the change.”
Murray was asked about Frolov’s previous two-game stint as the first-line winger, and what he might have seen in those games that lead him to believe Frolov is once again the answer…
MURRAY: “I still come away, at the end of the day, saying that we put a pretty good hockey player (in Frolov) up there in the replacement of Ryan Smyth, but I feel I need more. The opportunities were there and the shots on net were there, as far as the line was concerned, but I need more, to where I can look up at the clock and actually see it up there as a statistic. We’ll keep pushing it.”
Murray was then asked if, even knowing how much Smyth brings to the line, he could have anticipated that Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams would fall into such a rut. (Kopitar and Williams each have one point in their last four games).
MURRAY: “I didn’t anticipate that, quite honestly. I actually had a little chat with Kopi here this morning, here in the hallway, about getting back to those areas that he was in previously. I think Smytty brings his teammates to those areas. I watched his games in Colorado over the years, and that’s the style that everyone on that line played. I think that when you’re not forced into those areas, sometimes you have a tendency to drift away and play a little bit more on the outside. I tried to bring some attention to that this morning. We’ll keep talking about it and get Kopi, in particular, back driving to the net and in those hash-mark areas. It’s hard, but that’s where good things can happen for you.”
Finally, here’s what Kopitar said when asked what, in particular, the line needed to do in order to get going again…
KOPITAR: “It’s hard to say. It’s definitely a mix of everything. … It’s just a matter of working hard. We’re not getting great chances, but we’re getting some chances. It’s still frustrating, but at least we’re doing something. I have about four shots per game, but it’s just a matter of keeping it simple. Once we break through, it will just go up from there.”