New York Hockey: Alexander Frolov

Sather replenishes Ranger Fs with Wolski

January, 10, 2011
1/10/11
6:08
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GM Glen Sather wasted little time filling the hole created by the season-ending injury to Alexander Frolov.

Monday he traded blueliner Michal Rozsival to the Phoenix Coyotes for forward Wojtek Wolski, simultaneously obtaining a talented scorer (227 points in 356 career games) while creating $1.2 million in salary cap space. Doesn't seem to shabby a move for the much-maligned Sather.

Wolski's price may have been reduced due to diminished production in the 2010-11 campaign (6 goals and 10 assists in 36 games). That's .20 points per game below his career average. However, the trade may serve to spark the 24-year-old. After getting shipped from Colorado to Phoenix last season, Wolski tallied 23 points in 25 games, including the seven-game playoff series loss to Detroit.

The cost of Rozsival isn't insignificant. The 32-year-old Czech put up 15 points in 32 games and has been an able-bodied blueliner with the puck while Michael Del Zotto has endured some growing pains this season, contributing six of his assists on the power play.

The emergence of the Rangers' other defensemen -- such as Matt Gilroy, Mike Sauer and the recently promoted Ryan McDonagh -- may have made him somewhat expendable. The $1.2 million gained in salary cap space could also make his departure more palatable, allowing the Rangers a little more leeway to bring in help at the trade deadline -- if not sooner. Another veteran blueline presence wouldn't be surprising, considering the Rangers' D-men now average just over 24 years in age. That's a number that could decrease should the 20-year-old Del Zotto return to the roster.

Wolski's acquisition almost certainly spells the end of the road for Frolov on Broadway. The highly skilled (but sometimes seemingly unmotivated) winger never found his stride in New York and didn't record a point in the seven games prior to his injury. However Colorado Avalanche beat writer Adrian Dater, of the Denver Post, cautioned that Wolski is similarly prone to passive nights on the ice.

Frolov will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season after earning $3 million with the Rangers. Wolski, under contract for next season, will count $3.8 million against the cap. The Rangers are now about $2.3 million under the cap under the trade according to CapGeek.com, which should start the rumor mills spinning soon enough.

Sather applauded Rozsival's contributions to the Rangers in a Monday evening conference call with the media, but said the move was "too good an opportunity to turn down." Until the quotes get transcribed by the media, you can check out the Rangers' official Twitter feed for a sample.

W2W4: Coyotes vs. Rangers

December, 16, 2010
12/16/10
4:18
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The Rangers are back in town and back in action at the Garden tonight, taking on the Phoenix Coyotes. Here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops.

Replacing Ryan Callahan

The Rangers (and my fantasy team) will be without Callahan for about six weeks after the RW broke his hand Wednesday. Todd White, a healthy scratch against the Pens, will rejoin the lineup in his absence. That could be only for the short term if the Rangers decide to call up one of their prospects from Hartford. But tonight White will get a sweater and try to notch his first point since Nov. 5. He could probably help his cause even more if he can pick up some of the physical play the Rangers will miss with Callahan -- by far the Rangers' leader in hits -- on the shelf.

Draw!

Chris Drury's return was a welcome one Wednesday, particularly for his skills in the faceoff circle. As Donnie Pucks hit on earlier, the Rangers have been dreadful (which is probably an understatement) when it comes to draws. No Ranger is currently over 50 percent in the circle, and Derek Stepan sits below 40 percent at 37.6. It's not unusual for rookies to struggle at faceoffs. It's a skill that always seems to improve with age, but it's still a problem the Rangers would like to solve sooner rather than later. Drury gives them that solution. Expect him to take the majority of important draws Thursday night.

Frolov Finally Heating Up?

Alexander Frolov has points in two straight games, which wouldn't be particularly notable if the didn't end a 10-game drought. His goal against Pittsburgh was interesting because he scored it by going hard to the net, something he hasn't exactly done on a regular basis. The Rangers would certainly welcome some additional scoring, particularly with Callahan out of commission.

Frolov refutes trade request

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
2:35
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Struggling winger Alexander Frolov made some waves when an interview with Russian newspaper Sports-Express included comments indicating the Russian might “start to think about” asking for a trade if he continues to have his minutes limited by head coach John Tortorella.

Via Beyond the Blueshirts:
Is it possible to build any parallels to what occurred to you last year in Los Angeles?
I don’t want to compare the two situations yet. It’s a long season, everything could still change.

But you haven’t thought about a trade?
Not yet. I really hope that after my conversation with Tortorella something changes. But if everything stays the same, then I’ll start to think [about it] ...

Needless to say, that triggered some questions from the Rangers media at practice Wednesday, with both Frolov and Tortorella. Here’s Frolov’s explanation via Andrew Gross:
“It was a Russian guy and he asked me if I had some kind of fight with Torts, if there was some conflict going on,” Frolov said. “I said, ‘No.’”

“I had a conversation with Tortos but there’s no fighting, no conflict going on,” Frolov added. “Obviously, when you’re not playing enough, you want to play more, like any player.

“It was a good conversation,” Frolov said, adding he hasn’t seen the Russian article or the English translation. “I’m trying to work as hard as I can. I’ve improved in some areas. It’s a long season, there are lots of situations that can happen.”

Gross also asked Frolov if he was happy in New York:
“Yeah, I am,” Frolov said. “He asked me about a trade. I said I never think about it. I’ve never asked for a trade. I didn’t discuss it with Torts. I guess he was trying to make up a story or to find something.”

And here’s a comment from Tortorella on Frolov’s recent play from after practice, again via Gross:
“He’s improved in, for me, that most important part of his game and that was defensively,” Tortorella said. “Because if you’re not scoring, you can’t hurt the team away from the puck. I think he’s improved there. I think he’ll find a way. He had a couple of great chances on the power play. He had a tip when he fell on his butt there, and had a great chance in the third period on the power play [against the Senators this past weekend]. The puck’s not going in for him. As I’ve explained to him, we want to him to continue to try and concentrate on shooting more, on being around the net more and not behind it. I don’t have a crystal ball. I want him to keep trying. I want him to continue to work away from the puck or all things fall apart then. Hopefully we can grind him through it and he can find a streak, find some confidence as far as some production.”

Reports from practice still have Frolov on the fourth line, skating with Erik Christensen and Derek Boogaard and Todd White.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 8, Oilers 2

November, 14, 2010
11/14/10
3:26
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The Rangers’ Kids Day clash saw young faces in the stands and on the ice with the Edmonton Oilers in town. When the final horn sounded, it was the Rangers teaching the rookie-laden Oilers a few lessons in a slump-busting 8-2 victory in which several Blueshirts broke out.

Marian Gaborik gave the youths a little something to remember him by, scoring his first three goals of the 2010-11 season to earn a hat trick.



The Rangers’ kid, Derek Stepan, had pair of assists. On the first helper, Stepan eluded defenseman Jason Strudwick and found Artem Anisimov at the back door for the goal. The points end a long drought for Stepan, who hadn’t figured into a goal since Oct. 21.

Alexander Frolov also snapped a 10-game goalless streak, stashing a shot with five seconds remaining in the second period and snapping a wrister past Nikolai Khabibulin in the third.

And that’s just a small sample of all the action that went down on the Garden ice Sunday.

And For His Next Trick…

Gaborik’s first goal of the season was probably the ugliest of his career, but it counts all the same. Gaborik stripped the puck from Andrew Cogliano behind the Oilers net and somehow slipped it under the pads of Khabibulin. His next two goals were more traditional for the sniper, beating the Oiler netminder on a pair of breakaways. Gaborik also finished with an assist and a plus-five rating. Not too shabby.

Shouldering the Load

Gaborik looked fine after ramming his left shoulder into the post while potting his second marker of the night. That was the same shoulder that sidelined him for the past four weeks, and he looked a little sore after he slowly picked himself off the ice. But he showed no ill effects for the rest of the game.

The Hits Just Keep on Comin’

The Rangers wanted to establish a physical tone against the younger (and smaller) Oilers, and certainly did so based on the first-period hit totals. The Rangers dished out 21 hits in the first 20 minutes, including four each by Marc Staal and Ryan Callahan.

Don’t Blink

It wasn’t all pretty for the Rangers and I really fought the urge to invoke an infamous Sean Avery quote to describe the Blueshirts’ ugly second-period lapse. The Rangers fell asleep for just a minute and it cost them a pair of goals in the early second period. The first marker followed a terrific minute-long cycle by the Gaborik-Christensen-Frolov line when all five Blueshirts chased puck carrier Jordan Eberle, who deftly slipped the puck to Randy Jones at the goal mouth for the score. Shawn Horcoff followed up about 30 seconds later with a wrister that somehow eluded the glove of Martin Biron.

No, Seriously, Don’t Blink

Four minutes after the pair of Oilers’ strikes, the Rangers tallied twice in 24 seconds. A breakaway goal by Gaborik was followed by a Brian Boyle one-timer to regain the lead, 3-2. The goal-scoring of Boyle has been a very welcome surprise this season. He now has eight goals this season, his previous career high was four. Moreover, the goals aren’t the product of surrounding talent as Boyle has usually centered the third or fourth line this season.

Royal Rumble

In the third period, things took an ugly turn that resulted in 87 minutes of penalties. As Sean Avery was being escorted off the ice after dropping an unsuspecting Ladislav Smid, Theo Peckham jumped off the Edmonton bench to chase Avery off the ice and throw some verbal barbs. That ignited a massive brawl that spilled into the Ranger bench when Colin Fraser started throwing punches at a seated Brandon Dubinsky. It was a suspension-worthy affair to be sure, but it certainly seemed like the Oilers will have more to fear from the league office than the Rangers. Remember folks, it’s for the kids.

Prior to the battle royale, in a true clash of the heavyweights, Derek Boogaard showed he’s more than just a goal-scorer when he dropped the gloves twice with Steve MacIntyre. The Boogie Man had to work to free his right hand from MacIntyre’s strong grasp, but once free, a series of head shots knocked off the Oiler enforcer’s helmet and earned Boogaard the decision. MacIntyre fared a little better the second go-round, but he still didn’t really land any punches before the pair tired out.

Biron Back In Net

With Henrik Lundqvist less than 100 percent, the Rangers put Biron back between the pipes. That’s the luxury the Rangers now have with a very solid understudy. Biron only saw 21 shots, but (with the exception of the Oilers’ second goal) was very strong. His best save came in the first period, stoning Horcoff on the doorstep during a first-period Oiler power play.

Blues blank Blueshirts

November, 8, 2010
11/08/10
8:27
AM ET
It seemed like the Rangers might have caught a break when they faced Ty Conklin instead of red-hot Jaroslav Halak Sunday night. The donut the Blueshirts put up on the scoreboard said otherwise, however.

The Rangers fell 2-0 on a pair of goals from Alexander Steen (including an empty netter) and Conklin’s first shutout of the season in his second appearance of 2010-11. Interestingly enough, it was the first time the Blues have ever blanked the Blueshirts in the franchise’s history.

Game Story | Box Score

The game featured a five-minute power play for the Rangers in the third period after B.J. Crombeen caught Derek Stepan from behind. But the Rangers could do nothing with the prolonged man-advantage. An apparent goal by Alexander Frolov was waved off, as play was whistled dead for high sticking by a Blues defenseman.

Here are some news and notes from around the Rangers media, including one that should help bolster an offense that’s just managed four goals in the past three games.

Morning Links

Flyers' D smothers Rangers

November, 5, 2010
11/05/10
9:12
AM ET
Efficient. Methodical. Complete. Those are three words that best describe the Philadelphia Flyers' 4-1 win at home over the New York Rangers Thursday night. Philly held New York to a season-low 21 shots, a sign that top defenseman Chris Pronger is returning to form after offseason knee surgery. Pierre LeBrun has more in the recap of ESPN.com's game of the week.

Game Story | Box Score

With the Penguins' power play again struggling and Marc-Andre Fleury's early troubles in net, the Flyers are emerging as the top team in the Atlantic. To this point, and particularly during its current five-game winning streak, Philly has shown a very balanced attack, getting scoring from multiple lines while limiting opponents' scoring chances. For the season the Flyers rank sixth in both goals scored and allowed per game. They've outscored the opposition 22-9 over the five-game streak, which should give the faltering Islanders plenty to worry about when those teams tangle Saturday.

Back to the Blueshirts, here's a survey of the media after a flat night Thursday.

Morning Links

Drury to return for home opener

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
2:32
PM ET
Team captain Chris Drury will suit up for Friday’s home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs and he may slide right into the top line.

In addressing the media today, head coach John Tortorella said Drury would return from his broken finger injury Friday and also noted he was loathe to break up the team’s second (Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan) or third (Avery-Stepan-Fedotenko) lines. With top line center Erik Christensen ailing, it seems the No. 1 line with Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov would be the most likely landing spot.

Drury skated with the top unit during practice today, according to Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record.

Meanwhile, Jesse Spector of the Daily News reports Christensen will see a doctor about his bum wheel today and hopes to resume skating tomorrow.

Afternoon Links

Stepan is center of attention

September, 20, 2010
9/20/10
8:24
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As camp started this weekend, Derek Stepan took center stage, assigned to the team's top line with Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov for the Rangers' first scrimmage. While it's still extremely early to read too much into the move, it did seem to pay off. Stepan scored a goal and set up one of Frolov's three scores.

The momentum keeps building for Stepan who previously turned in a solid showing at the Traverse City prospect tournament. It's no guarantee that Stepan will start the season centering the Rangers' top line, or even that he'll beat out a deep group of vets for a spot on the roster, but Stepan's situation is holding everyone's attention early on. More on the matter below.

Morning Links

Top five training camp questions

September, 17, 2010
9/17/10
9:26
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The 2010-11 season has arrived. This weekend marks the opening of training camp for all three New York area teams and the end to the summer speculation hockeyheads have leaned on in lieu of on-ice action. Starting this weekend, we’ll finally get some answers to some key questions. Here are the top five facing the Rangers, Devils and Islanders as the curtain rises.

Rangers

Who will be the Rangers’ first-line center?
In speaking to the media, head coach John Tortorella said that the only jobs that had been decided beyond King Henrik's continued reign in the crease were the two top-line wingers, Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov. Who acts as their pivot is still up for grabs and fantasy hockey players especially are eager to find out.
One candidate it Erik Christensen. The 26-year-old, acquired last year from Anaheim, finished the season strong with 2 goals and 6 assists in his last six games. However, he posted just 26 points in total, not exactly the type of production you expect from a top-liner. Brandon Dubinsky and Vinny Prospal also spent time skating with Gaborik last season, and veteran Todd White could be in the conversation as well.

Will there be new blood?
Tortorella also noted that Derek Stepan, Evgeny Grachev and Ryan McDonagh will get long looks this training camp. Stepan and Grachev could be welcome additions to a roster that has struggled to score. McDonagh’s task is slightly tougher given the shortage of blue-line openings, but he’s been impressive in rookie camp and at the Traverse City prospect tournament.

How long will Wade Redden last?
Tortorella says it’s not automatic that Redden will be banished to the minors. Is he just trying to say the right thing and do right by a veteran player? Or does Redden really have a shot?
It seems like he’s a dead man walking (skating?) since his play for the Blueshirts has been sub-par and sinking his salary-cap hit in the minors solves the Rangers’ money problems. If Redden sticks on the Rangers roster -- and let’s be clear, that seems to be a gigantic IF at this point -- there will be some massive shakeups to compensate and clear the needed $4 million-plus to get below the cap.

Who rounds out the blueline?
We hit on this yesterday. Marc Staal, Daniel Girardi, Michal Rozsival and Michael Del Zotto appear to be locks for the top four spots. That leaves two active spots, with the team possibly carrying a seventh defenseman. Steve Eminger, Matt Gilroy, rookie Ryan McDonagh, AHL veteran Mike Sauer and invitees Garnet Exelby and Alexei Semenov will duke it out for those final slots.

How fast can Mats Zuccarello-Aasen adjust?
It’s almost a cliché. Every time a European player makes the jump to North America you’ll see some skepticism about how well he can adjust to this continent’s smaller ice surfaces. Yeah, the question’s warn out, but it wouldn’t be asked it if wasn’t true. Most European players play a finesse game. On a smaller sheet, with guys like Zdeno Chara defending the lanes, there’s less room to maneuver. If last season’s scoring leader in Sweden can adapt early, he could be a very welcome weapon.

Devils

Is Patrik Elias really going to play LW?
New head coach John MacLean told the media that Elias will enter camp as a left wing. Come again?
That likely puts him on the third line and leaves us wondering who skates with top LWs Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise on the other two lines. Elias has played some center in the past, but with MacLean's statement it seems Travis Zajac and Jason Arnott will center the top two scoring lines. Having a star like Elias on the third line will give the Devils some tremendous depth, in theory, but it will be interesting to see if his style can synch up with a grind line.

Which prospects will make the team?
LW (there’s that position again!) Mattias Tedenby is the top prospect, but don’t discount C Jacob Josefson. The Devils could use some depth down the middle since Arnott’s not exactly a spring chicken and if push comes to stomach punch, GM Lou Lamoriello may need to trade Zajac out of desperation in order to get below the salary cap at the start of the season. Which brings us to …

Who’s going?
Until something breaks, Dainius Zubrus and Bryce Salvador are going to be skating like guillotines in tow. They’re the owners of the biggest contracts that don’t include no-movement clauses. Of course, those big contracts also make them rather unpalatable to other teams, so trading them will be a tall order. One way or the other the Devils need to get below the cap ceiling, which means some veteran players are heading out the door. Until they do, there will be some dark clouds hovering over Prudential Center.

Can Kovalchuk’s style mesh with the Devils?

After acquiring Kovalchuk from the Devils, the team’s playing style started to skew from a workman-like dump-and-chase to a more skill-based game. Grinding is what the Devils do best. Streaking down the ice and scoring is what Kovalchuk does best. Can the two exist in harmony?

Can Kovalchuk stand the spotlight?
The single biggest topic this summer revolved around Kovalchuk’s free agency and contract. He’s going to be under scrutiny from the media in camp and early in the season. How well will he handle it?

Islanders

Who wins the blueline battle?
Mark Streit and James Wisniewski look like they’ll anchor this unit with a lot of other fairly proven names (Jack Hillen, Mark Eaton) also in the picture. I could go on, but Lighthouse Hockey’s already shined a very nice spotlight on the coming competition.

Will the kids stick around?
There’s nothing that excites a rebuilding franchise like new blood and the Islanders have some very choice prospects. But will they make their mark in 2010-11?
Nino Niederreiter, Kirill Kabanov, Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic comprise four of the Isles’ top eight prospects according to Hockey’s Future.
It’s expected that El Nino will make the strongest run to remain on the roster, but there’s no shortage of top talent in this system. Some veterans will be pushed hard to keep their spots.

Can Kabanov behave?
I kind of hate to ask this one, since I’d prefer to give an 18-year-old the benefit of the doubt. However, Kabanov keeps making his enigmatic behavior a big issue.
If he can keep in line for the duration of camp, that will go a long way towards dispelling the notion that he’s a headache not worth dealing with -- the same perception that allowed someone of his elite talent to slip to the third round of the draft.

Will Rick DiPietro be up to full speed?
The netminder says he feels good and he’s ready to go this season, but staying healthy has never been the former top pick’s strong suit. Even if he’s not up to par, it’s unlikely the Isles make a move to acquire another goalie, but there are still some veteran options (Jose Theodore) out there should DiPietro again find himself sidelined, with some prospects waiting in the wings as well.

Is there a big year coming from John Tavares?
You can’t usually tell much in the preseason, but a lot of eyes will be on him to see if he can take that next step. Steven Stamkos set the bar (impossibly?) high with his 51-goal campaign in his sophomore season. Tavares may well have the ability to match that feat, but does he have the supporting cast? The Lightning may not be the team they once were, but Stamkos is still surrounded with a cast of stars in Tampa. The Isles aren’t without talent, but it’s just not the same setting for Tavares.
For what it’s worth, Tavares is ranked No. 54 in ESPN’s fantasy projections, with 30 goals and 64 points.

Got questions of your own? Post them in the comment section below and we’ll check them out as the preseason unfolds.

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