Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ben Smith (28) takes a backhanded shot on goal past St. Louis Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold during the second period in Game 3 of a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series game Monday, April 21, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
There have been a couple of times when Ben Smith has found himself manning his position, only to realize that, wait, nope, that’s not his position.
“A couple of times, I found myself in the middle playing down low with [Marcus] Kruger,” Smith said with a sheepish grin. “But it’s fine. . . . 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 coach 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 to 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 to do my best.”