Detroit — At the start of the season, Martin Frk’s status as a regular in the Red Wings’ lineup remained unclear.
By the end of the season, it is clear he is regularly on the fourth line.
Call it what you may. But it is progress for the forward with the heavy, heavy shot who will never be among the Wings' savvier defensive forwards.
Frk is still here. He wants to stay.
He realizes some things must improve, and says that Jeff Blashill has made that clear.
“I stayed here for the whole year, and I’m really happy for that,” said Frk, who participated in the Red Wings’ optional practice on Friday.
It is his first full season in the NHL, after the Wings exposed him to waivers in 2016 and played two games for the Hurricanes, before the Red Wings reclaimed him off waivers and put him back in Grand Rapids
“It was a treat for me,” Frk said of his first season in the NHL. “I was real happy I made the team.”
Frk has averaged 10:16 of time on ice and played 16:41 against the Canadiens on Dec. 12.
He would like more time and the Red Wings would like to give it to him, if only to see more of that booming shot.
Frk’s highest shots on goal tally is four, and he has done it only twice this season.
He began the season on a line with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha, which became seldom seen after the opening games of the season.
Frk, who turns 25 the first week of next season, started hot. He scored three goals in the first four games of the season, and in three consecutive games, from Nov. 5-9.
In 66 games played, one season after the Red Wings lost him to waivers and he played two games for the Hurricanes, Frk has scored 12 goals and assisted on 14 in his limited playing time.
But, in that limited time, he has also accumulated a minus-12 rating, fourth worst on the team (Andreas Athanasiou minus-15, Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall minus-14).
“I learned a lot over the year, but there’s still a lot more to learn,” Frk said. “I could be better.
“This league is really hard to play in. You’ve got to show up and work hard, and I really try to do that.
“Blash is very strict, and he wants the players to work on both sides of the ice.”
Frk said he hopes to play for the Czech Republic in the World Championship in May, but the team is assembling as soon as next week for a European tour.
“I just want to play more hockey,” he said. “Being on the fourth line, I didn’t get much minutes.
“I want to go there and play more… against the best.”
Big red giant
The children of some of the players visited the team Friday, with some of the toddlers making play areas out of dressing stalls.
Things were light and playful, until the looming presence of Jared Coreau, the 6-foot-6 goalie, in full equipment, mask on, entered the room and moved toward his stall.
Apparently one person’s NHL goalie can be a toddler’s big red giant, and perhaps one not so jolly.
Coreau apologized, but he could hardly help it. And a good laugh was had, as little ones scrambled behind daddy’s legs for cover, and to peer back out at the giant.
Islanders at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7 Saturday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The last game of the season for two teams that will finish about 20 to 25 points out of the playoffs.