Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger set to return from concussion; Ben Smith sent to RockfordContinue reading.
Versatility paying off for Blackhawks’ Ben Smith
There have been a couple times when Ben Smith has found himself manning his position, only to realize that, wait, nope, that’s not his position.
“A couple times, I found myself in the middle playing down low with Kruger,” Smith said with a sheepish grin. “But it’s fine. We all ready off each other. As long as I know going into it that I’m playing right, or center, or left, I feel comfortable playing wherever.”
Smith can be forgiven for getting lost once or twice. He’s playing two very significant — and two wildly different — roles for the Blackhawks in their first-round series with the St. Louis Blues. His primary job is fourth-line right wing alongside Kruger and Brandon Bollig. That’s the Hawks’ shutdown line, getting nearly 75 percent of its starts in its own zone (according to extraskater.com) against the Blues’ top lines.
But he’s also getting a handful of shifts as the second-line center between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. That’s a flat-out scoring line, getting most of its starts in the offensive zone.
That versatility has earned him more minutes and more of Joel Quenneville’s trust over the course of the season.
“He did it during the year in stretches, and he was fine doing it,” Quenneville said. “As the season progressed, he got more responsibility in all areas, more ice time.”
Smith certainly isn’t complaining. After spending most of the season trying to prevent goals, he’s enjoying the opportunity to try to create some with Sharp and Hossa.
“Yeah, it’s nice,” he said. “But I’ve been saying all year, whatever my job is out there, I’m going to try and do it to the best of my abilities. Whether it’s taking some D-zone draws or trying to be strong defensively, or getting some looks up there with some O-zone opportunities, I’ll just try and do my best.”