Chicago Sun-Times

Ben Smith back in Blackhawks lineup vs. Islanders

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Ben Smith's start was less than ideal. The winger's first two games of the season were two of the worst for the Hawks as a team.

After being called up from the Rockford IceHogs in place of struggling winger Rostislav Olesz, Smith played 9:21 and was a minus-2 in the Hawks' 5-2 loss against the Calgary Flames in the second game of the circus trip. A day later, he was a minus-1 in 14:04 in a 9-2 defeat against the Edmonton Oilers.

Smith hasn't played since, but he's expected to be back in the lineup when the Hawks host the New York Islanders at the United Center Friday. Winger Bryan Bickell, who has seen a drop in his ice time, will likely be a scratch. Bickell didn't record a point in November.

"It's not an easy transition coming off the American [Hockey] League, but it shouldn't be an excuse," Smith said. "I want to play. I want to play well and contribute. It's all about patience and working hard everyday. That's what I'm trying to do.

"It's coming back here and coming to work everyday. It's playing with this level of guys and getting back in the routine of that. That's where I'm at."

Coach Joel Quenneville wants to see Smith return to the pace he was at when he became a factor last postseason against the Canucks or at least to the level that made him Rockford's leading scorer after returning from a concussion.

"Certainly, we'd like to be playing him," Quenneville said. "I know he came in here and had a couple tough ones, but at the same time he gives us an ingredient where he's versatile. He gives us some quickness. He gives us some intelligence.

"With that injury, I thought he got going down in Rockford. Getting him back in here, we'd like to get him back up to that pace and get him comfortable in our team game and his own game. He's useful. Let's get him in there. We don't want him to sit out, either."

Quenneville also said it's hard to judge Smith on just those two games.

"Those are tough games to really measure anybody's performance," Quenneville said. "They were two really off games by us and he was in the middle of it. But we're looking at him as well. Let's get him back playing and get him up to speed."

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Adam L. Jahns is a native Chicagoan hailing from the Far Northwest Side. Jahns has been with the Sun-Times since 2005, covering the Hawks since 2009. He's also helped cover the Bears, Cubs, Sox and high schools.

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This page contains a single entry by Adam L. Jahns published on December 2, 2011 11:36 AM.

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