Blackhawks send Ben Smith down to Rockford
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org December 12, 2011 10:04PM
Blackhawks winger Ben Smith was demoted to the Rockford IceHogs on Monday. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
Updated: January 14, 2012 8:19AM
Ben Smith believed he was getting there.
A playoff hero last season against the Vancouver Canucks, Smith told the Sun-Times recently that he thought he was getting better and better each day he practiced and played with the Blackhawks.
But in the end, the boost general manager Stan Bowman envisioned after Smith was called up in place of underachieving Rostislav Olesz during the circus trip never came about. There were no dramatic goals or heroic moments this time around. After one goal and a minus-6 rating in seven games, Smith was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs on Monday.
The Hawks apparently will turn elsewhere — whether it’s calling up another player such as Jeremy Morin or reinserting Bryan Bickell after he was scratched five consecutive games — as they try to get some production from their bottom-six forwards.
“We’re tough to beat when we have all four lines going,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That’s where we want to get to when you have [Dave Bolland’s] line contributing defensively and offensively, and you get energy from [Jamal Mayers’] line. It comes from a lot of areas.
“Especially when you have your top two lines producing the way they have this year, it’s nice to have all four lines bringing that same intensity. It makes us a much better team when we have all four lines going.”
Smith primarily played with Bolland and winger Michael Frolik, who are both in offensive slumps. Smith said he liked the challenge of being used in a defensive role on Bolland’s line.
“In Rockford, you kind of do a bit of everything, which is nice,” he said. “So I had that checking-line role a little bit last year. It’s something I’m happy to do if that’s what you want to call it.”
Smith also said that he was “starting to play [his] game more, which is important.” But the production never came.
“We’ve had our chances,” Smith said. “It’s just a matter of bearing down a little bit more.”
Expectations were high for Smith. The rookie was in the spotlight when training camp began after his playoff success, but a concussion slowed his momentum. Smith took off in Rockford, but that failed to carry over in his stint with the Hawks.
“There’s patience with the puck, play recognition, and anticipating is part of [Smith’s] game,” Quenneville said. “There’s progress there, but there’s room there [for improvement] as well.”
It’s not often that you see Marian Hossa get involved physically with opponents and drop his gloves, but he had enough against the Sharks after taking some extra shots from forward Ryane Clowe at the end of regulation. Clowe also landed several shots on Duncan Keith’s face while they were being separated by officials and other players.
“The hits kept coming,” Hossa said. “So I just turned and said, ‘Don’t be a coward hitting me from behind.’ ”
◆ Sharks center Andrew Desjardins was fined $2,500 — the maximum allowed under the collective-bargaining agreement — by the NHL for boarding Hawks defenseman Sami Lepisto in the first period Sunday.