Ask Alexander Frolov why he seems like a different player since the Olympic break, and he'll tell you that he is -- thanks to the fact he really was able to take a break during the break.
"I had a really good rest," he said after his four-point night against Columbus (one goal, three assists). "I feel much better, much more confident."
Amazing what a few days in Laguna Beach can do for the body and soul.
"I spent a few days in the pool, worked out a little," he said, " I had a good rest. Beach, went to the gym a few times. The pool. Great food, great weather."
Coach Terry Murray noticed the difference in Frolov's game and attitude once the Kings resumed practices after their obligatory time off.
"He came back and you could see his work through the practices, getting ready for the start again," Murray said. "He was really digging in and pushing hard, showing a lot of speed, a lot of quickness, puck possession plays, it's nice to see."
Frolov's skill level and versatility were on display in a variety of ways in tonight's game. First, there was an assist on Drew Doughty's goal that made it 2-0. It was typical Frolov -- at least typical of late -- digging a puck out of the corner that eventually ended up on Doughty's stick and was one-timed into the back of the net.
After Michal Handzus made it 3-0, it was Frolov again, this time not lurking around the net, but floating out near the blue line on a Kings power play and firing a rocket that beat Jackets goalie Steve Mason on the glove side and forced him out of the game.
"We know if you want to have success on the power play," Frolov said, "you have to shoot as often as you can. That's what we tried to do tonight -- put pucks on net. And I had time and space to shoot. There was a good screen in front."
The goal by Frolov was his 10th point in the last nine games and the Blue Jackets were finished for the night. But Frolov was just heating up. Early in the second period on another Kings power play, he beat one defender in the neutral zone and was knocked off balance, but he recovered enough to nudge the puck to Fredrik Modin, who broke in and scored his second goal in three games with Kings.
And then Frolov again, working the puck down low, passing it out to Jarret Stoll, who shot. Brad Richardson banged in the goal for a 6-0 Kings lead and Frolov picked up his fourth point of the night.
Pretty impressive stuff, but what especially caught Murray's eye was a rush by Frolov late in the game that almost led to another point for him.
"Did you ever see him skate that fast?" Murray asked with a grin. "He played an outstanding game. He gave us a big effort in all areas of the game. His strength obviously is what we see every game, down below the dots in the offensive zone, his cycle, holding onto the puck in one-on-one situations, but he was showing a complete game here tonight. Lots of speed, I like to see that. I liked his effort."
Music to Frolov's ears, who hasn't always been the subject of praise from his coach or upper management in what has been a challenging season for him.
"I've had a tough year," he said, "especially in the beginning. Things like that happen. You know that some day the tough times are going to be over. You just have to keep going."
Frolov has done just that, scoring 16 goals and 45 points so far this season and picking a great time of the year to heat up -- especially for a guy who becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season.
"This is a big measuring stick time for all players, all teams," Murray said, "when you get into where we are in the standings and try to keep pushing up and trying to develop that playoff attitude as we go forward. This is where we get the right read on people: Who's going to compete? Who's going to get the job done?
"This is his contract year," Murray continued, "we all know that. I'm really pushing him. I hope he keeps playing the kind of game that he showed here tonight. It'll be a positive result for him."
Frolov hopes so. All he can do is to keep doing what he's doing. But he does have one thought for the NHL for seasons beyond this one: that mid-season break that allowed him to get in some R&R at Laguna Beach? He's all for it.
"They should do it more often," he said with a laugh.
That's not going to happen. But if Frolov keeps playing the way he is, come July 1st when it's time to sign a new deal, that little trip to Laguna may turn out to be the most productive vacation that he's ever taken.