Blackhawks

Hawks' Smith looking to build off good day

540310.jpg

Hawks' Smith looking to build off good day

Ben Smith stood at his locker on Monday, a smile on his face.

"I felt pretty good," said Smith. "It's just as it's been all along. I'm just seeing day in and day out how it's going."

Welcome to dealing with a concussion. Smith will take days like Monday, when he's able to skate and at least take part in the non-contact drills. He has yet to be cleared for contact but he's hoping the recovery continues.

"It's nice to get him on the ice," coach Joel Quenneville said. "If he practices a couple more days in a row then maybe we'll get an indication. Things have been better the last few days."

Things were up and down last week for Smith, who suffered his concussion on Sept. 28. He skated with the team early last week, then was off the ice by the end of it. The term "part of the process" was used to describe Smith's status heading into last weekend, which sounded like the forward had a setback.

"It's just part of the way things are with concussions. You never know," Smith said. "The best-case scenario is to be cautious."

Smith is handling the situation well, probably because he realizes he has no choice. There's no such thing as rushing back from these anymore, no just telling the coach, 'Hey, I'm fine,' and you're back in the lineup. Talking to the doctors, telling them how he feels, clearing the tests: that's the protocol, and Smith will take all the time he needs to get there.

Still, like any other player devoted to the game, Smith has a lot of pride. Here's a player who didn't miss one game in his college career. He admits he took pride in that. So sitting right now isn't fun.

"It's tough watching games. But you can't mess with your head," he said. "Arms and legs are different. You want to be 100 percent when you come back and that's what I'm working toward. I'm just trying to get back."

Smith's also talking plenty with Dave Bolland, who missed a month last spring with his own concussion. Bolland, who has talked several times about how hard those recovery weeks were, spoke with Smith when both did not travel to Dallas last week.

"He said, 'Hey, take your time, make sure you're 100 percent,'" Smith recalled. "You've seen how he's come back from these type of things. Obviously he's been doing the right things to be back. That's definitely someone I listen to."

Smith will heed all advice, diagnoses and test results. He has no choice. He just hopes to build off days like Monday.

Briefly

Corey Crawford was given a day off on Monday. Crawford has a slight groin injury but Quenneville said the goaltender should be back practicing on Tuesday. Niles resident Scotty Czarnik, who played club hockey at Arizona State but is transferring to Illinois State, was the Blackhawks' No. 2 goaltender at Monday's practice.

Daniel Carcillo skated on a line with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa on Monday. Whether he's with that group long or not, Carcillo will make his regular-season Blackhawks debut on Thursday when they host the Winnipeg Jets.

Viktor Stalberg (left knee) skated by himself on Monday and could rejoin the Blackhawks practices Tuesday or Wednesday.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Blackhawks are one of NHL's hottest teams, but have they turned a corner?

blackhawks_usa_today.jpg
USA Today

Blackhawks are one of NHL's hottest teams, but have they turned a corner?

For the first two and a half months of the season, the Blackhawks were battling through major inconsistency issues. They had won more than two games in a row just once and lost at least three straight five times.

And yet somehow, the Blackhawks still found themselves afloat in the Western Conference playoff race. 

But the tide has finally started to turn.

Since Dec. 15, the Blackhawks are 12-5-0 and have the fourth-most standings points in the NHL over that span with 24. They’ve also won a season-long five consecutive games and have a plus-13 goal differential during their winning streak.

Now, there are certainly some statistical trends that are unsustainable over the long term that could result in a market correction. Their on-ice shooting percentage (13.0) and save percentage (94.7) at 5-on-5 play during their winning streak is a combined 107.7, which is the second-highest in the league over that stretch.

But the Blackhawks are playing a brand of hockey that will win them games more often than not going forward: The top guys are producing, the depth scoring is there, the defensive structure has tightened up and the goaltending remains strong.

"No question,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said on whether he feels this type of performance will continue to lead to positive results. “We are being rewarded. There's no reason to get away from it. It's paying off and the more it gets into our mentality and our identity that this is who we are, and we'll do this no matter what, it's a habit and you don't think twice about it. We still need to work at preparing to approach the game that way, but when we do it's easier for you and you'll set up your teammates as well."

Perhaps the most notable part of the winning streak is the fact the Blackhawks look like a team that's on the same page after making an in-season schematic adjustment in November, on top of dealing with an array of key injuries. The Blackhawks stayed the course and aren't wavering from their game which we saw them do earlier in the season, whether they're playing with a lead or a deficit. 

Take Sunday's 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets as an example. The Blackhawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, gave up a late goal in the second period that cut their lead to 2-1, but punched back in the third period by scoring twice to pull ahead 4-1, which iced the game.

One month ago, the Blackhawks would probably find a way to squander that two-goal lead. That hasn't been the case over the last month and the Blackhawks are hoping this becomes part of their DNA.

"We're finally starting to full buy-in to the system," Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner said. "Full effort level, doing the right things at the right times. ... Everyone's just doing their job, and we're starting to feel [that] doing those things gets you rewarded and everyone keeps doing it. We're doing well, but we've just got to keep doing it because every point is crucial."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Jonathan Toews named NHL's Third Star of the week

usatsi_13924548.jpg
USA Today

Jonathan Toews named NHL's Third Star of the week

The Blackhawks (24-20-6, 54 points) are on fire, having won five straight games to vault them back into the Western Conference playoff picture.

Jonathan Toews has been key to that stretch, and on Monday, he was recognized for his recent stellar play by being named the NHL's Third Star of the week. Alex Ovechkin and Elvis Merzlikins nabbed the top two spots:

In four games between Jan. 14 and Jan. 19 (all Blackhawks wins, of course), Toews led the NHL in points with nine (three goals, six assists). And none of them were empty. Among myriad highlights was this game-winning slingshot to beat the Senators 3-2 in overtime to kick off the week (the 15th overtime game-winner of his career):

His two-goal, two-assist outing against the Maple Leaf days later was pretty fun, too:

Toews rides a six-game point streak into Tuesday night's bout with the Florida Panthers. If he extends it, he'll become the sixth player in Blackhawks history to reach 800 career points. 

The milestones and accolades are piling up for The Captain and, crucially, they're translating in the win column for the Blackhawks.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.