Smith looks to make impact, sans Sharp
January, 10, 2012
By Jesse Rogers | ESPNChicago.com
Tim Fuller/US PresswireBen Smith isn't trying to look too far ahead when he takes the ice on Tuesday.CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks will host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night in their first game without Patrick Sharp, who is out up to a month with a hand injury.
Ben Smith, just recalled from Rockford, lined up in Sharp's position on the second line Tuesday morning with Michael Frolik and Marian Hossa next to him. It's a big spot for Smith who wants to stick with the Hawks once and for all.
"That's the hope, but I've found when I have success I'm taking things one day at a time," he said after practice. "That's my mental approach this time. Today, worry about today and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Joel Quenneville intimated on Monday that young Jimmy Hayes might get a chance to fill Sharp's role but Smith will at least get first crack. Anything can change once the game starts but giving Smith an opportunity to play with Hossa is the right move by Quenneville.
Hayes can create his own scoring chance better than Smith and simply doesn't need Hossa as much as Smith does. It could be the reason Smith struggled in his first stint with the Hawks this season. He was playing with less skilled players on the bottom two lines and his own skills weren't maximized. They might be with Hossa. He can create havoc and take attention away while Smith goes to the net for rebounds and/or garbage goals.
"My game is to go to the net or behind the net to make plays either way ... Having a guy that can hold onto the puck and make plays does help but whoever you play with at this level can get shots through," Smith said. "Just getting to the net is the most important thing."
Hossa is a guy that can "hold onto the puck" better than any fourth line forward so Smith and Hayes might be in the right spots for now. Of course, Hayes simply might be too good for the fourth line, but for now, maximizing both players' sets of skills is the right way to go.
The Other Lines
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg will skate together again against Columbus. The trio feels the offensive chances were there against Detroit while they held their own -- for the most part -- against the Red Wings top guns.
Kane, in particular, continues to slump but revealed what coaches told him during individual meetings on Monday.
"Obviously you look for some more production," he said. "Besides that, worrying about defense first, trying to get the puck back. The main thing is getting it back and having it in our hands instead of the other teams."
Dave Bolland will center Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw while Jamal Mayers is between Hayes and Andrew Brunette. Corey Crawford starts in net.
"I don't know if angry is the right word but definitely pissed off that we've lost some games that we should have won," Kane said of the four-game losing streak. "It's not like its do or die right now but we definitely want to get back on the right track."
The Blue Jackets will play their first game under new coach Todd Richards. The Hawks are 3-0 against Columbus this season.