Fans at the United Center were able to welcome a familiar face to the building while they greeted new center Marcus Kruger to town.
Lost in the Blackhawks 4-0 win over Florida and the debut of the newest Blackhawk was the return of winger Jack Skille, who was part of a trade with the Panthers six weeks ago that netted Chicago Michael Frolik.
Skille returned to the Florida lineup recently after a high ankle sprain kept him off the ice for almost a month. He garnered a warm, if not overwhelming, ovation before his first action against the club that drafted him seventh overall in 2005.
The long-term results of the five-player trade may not be evident for several years, but with the playoffs quickly approaching, it won't hurt to look at what each team got from the two NHL players exchanged in the deal.
Let's start by comparing the two players on their performance Wednesday night.
Skille, who started the game for the Panthers, spent 16:23 on the ice. He got off two shots on goal and was minus-two for the contest.
Frolik, who centered the second line as he has since Dave Bolland has been out, skated an identical 16:23. He had an assist on Tomas Kopecky's goal in the third period on a play that saw Tomas Vokoun completely faked out of the crease. Frolik was plus-one for the game.
Since the trade, Skille has an assist in nine games. He is currently minus-11 with Florida. He has seen a lot more minutes per game, but hasn't found the net. To be fair, he has missed a month.
Frolik has two goals and four assists in the 19 games he has played for the Blackhawks. He is minus-four in that span.
When the trade was made, both Skille and Frolik were mired on their respective team's fourth line. Neither player was burning up the nets. Frolik definitely holds a scoring edge over Skille, in part to having played in more games.
What's more important than individual numbers to Chicago is the way they have been able to use Frolik as opposed to Skille. Frolik has played nearly six minutes a game more for the Blackhawks than Skille did. He has shown he can be defensively responsible and has provided valuable minutes at center. It looks as if he will continue to center the second line for the time being.
Skille provided a burst of speed and physical play for the 'Hawks. However, he has a top-six mindset that didn't suit the role he was asked to play in Chicago. With Frolik, the Blackhawks have gotten key minutes from him at two positions, and he has shown more of an overall game than Skille.
For Skille, the trade should prove to work out well. He's getting big minutes on a rebuilding team, which is what he really needs if he is ever to fulfill the potential Dale Tallon saw in him.
Three or four years down the road, we might see this trade in a different light once the other players in the deal develop and factor into the equation. Time will tell on those players.
One fact is clear, however. As a midseason swap designed to boost the Blackhawks' playoff chances, Chicago has gotten the best of this trade in the short term. Frolik has played a bigger role in the Hawks' push for the playoffs than Skille would have if he were still in the Indian sweater.
Still, for those of us who followed Skille in Rockford for the last few years, it was nice to see him healthy and getting an opportunity to continue building his NHL resume.
Good luck, Jack.
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