Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman knew he'd need rookie forward Ben Smith again. And when that time came, he wanted to make sure he was confident.
"Ben came up at a tough time when our team was really having trouble," Bowman said of recalling Smith during the Hawks' circus trip in November. "We played a couple of bad games there [against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames], and he was unfortunately thrown into that.
"He was leading Rockford in scoring. He had a lot of confidence. He comes up -- and it's not his fault -- but we got bombed a couple of times in a row. Then they take him out, and he sits for a couple of games. Basically, all the momentum that he had built up went away. At that point, you're just trying not to make mistakes."
So Bowman sent Smith down to Rockford after an uninspiring seven-game stint as others got a chance to prove themselves with the Hawks. But Smith was recalled Monday with Patrick Sharp out three to four weeks with a suspected fracture in his hand/wrist and will be in the lineup Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Smith will start on a line with Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik, but that may change based on his performance. Rookie Jimmy Hayes may also get a shot with Hossa. In his last stint, Smith primarily played among the bottom-six forwards.
"My game is to try to get in front of the net or behind the net and make plays either way," Smith said. "Obviously going to the net is a big part of my game and having a guy who can hold onto the puck and make plays [in Hossa] does help.
"I found when I have success it's when I'm taking things one day at a time. That's my mental approach coming here this time. Today worry about today, and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Smith, a playoff hero last season, admitted that he put too much pressure on himself when he was first recalled.
"He's always got a good attitude," coach Joel Quenneville said. "That's one thing about Benny. You've got to love his character. He's a driven kid that wants to play up here. He's solid and he's capable of [doing what he did] last year.
"He had a real good start to camp and a tough ending [with a concussion in a preseason game]. It looks like he's catching up to himself where we envision him to be here this year. Watching him practice, he was flying out there today so he's excited about getting back here."