Blackhawks

Smith taking calmer approach to this opportunity

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Smith taking calmer approach to this opportunity

Ben Smith was feeling the heat on his last stint with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The forward who was a surprise scoring force in the playoffs last season struggled when he was called up here in late Novemberearly December. Smith said he didnt have the right mindset coming into that opportunity.

Maybe I was feeling too much of the pressure and not taking it day by day as I have in the past, said Smith. So when he was recalled on Monday, Smith said he came up with a calmer approach.

Smith skated on the Blackhawks second line with Michael Frolik and Marian Hossa on Tuesday, and will start there tonight when the Blackhawks host the Columbus Blue Jackets. The top-six opportunity is a big one for Smith, whos proven he can produce when necessary. He came through on the big stage last spring, scoring three goals in seven games against the Vancouver Canucks.

And Smith said he hopes taking the same outlook as he did then helps pay off for him again now.

Its about not feeling so much of the pressure and just enjoying being here, he said. You never know whats going to happen in this business. All you can do is focus on today.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Smiths readiness was evident Tuesday morning.

I watched him practice; he was flying out there today so hes excited to be back here, Quenneville said. You have to love his character; hes a driven kid who wants to play up here. The last time up here, it looked like was catching up to where we envision him to be this year.

Smith will play left wing with Frolik and Hossa but he could also play center if necessary. Its a good chance for him to stick around for a while, as the Blackhawks work through injuries with Patrick Sharp (wrist), Marcus Kruger (concussion) and Daniel Carcillo (knee).

The Blackhawks need contributions from across the board and Smith has the chance to be one of those guys. If he takes the opportunity for what it is and doesnt put that pressure on himself, he could show that game he had last spring again.

Thats the hope, Smith said of staying here. But Ive found when I have success its when Im taking things one day at a time. Thats my mental approach coming up here this time.

Snake-bitten Blackhawks light the lamp Saturday

Snake-bitten Blackhawks light the lamp Saturday

Three unlikely heroes emerged in Calgary on Saturday night to help the Blackhawks find some footing near the end of their five-game road trip (currently 1-3-0) that wraps up Sunday in Winnipeg.

Blackhawks rookie center Kirby Dach hadn't scored a goal in six games; Alex DeBrincat had one marker in his last nine after finishing last season with 41; Alex Nylander had one goal in his past 17 contests.

The trio bounced back against the Flames to help the Hawks to an 8-4 victory.

Nylander scored twice, and DeBrincat and Dach each had a goal.

"It’s a learning process for us that [haven't] been through this," Nylander said after the game. "And we are lucky that we have these vets that are on our team that can help us and see that something like this in the season happens."

Related: Blackhawks' offense explodes in Calgary

Of all the Hawks who have gone cold this season, the most surprising was DeBrincat, who posted 41 goals last season and 28 as a rookie the year prior.

"I've been fighting with the puck a little bit too much," he said. "Even today, I didn't really play that well, but finally got rewarded."

Six points out of a playoff spot, having the three forwards off the schneid could be a big factor in the Hawks putting a streak together to keep their playoff hopes alive.

"Those guys, they have the ability to chip in for us offensively and if they can do that it's going to make a big difference for us," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the three. "Ultimately, it comes down to their work ethic away from the puck."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews felt Dach, DeBrincat and Nylander gave the Hawks a much-needed lift on Saturday.

"For guys like that and the way they think, the way they play the game, their skillset, scoring goals gives you a ton of energy, it gives you a lift," Toews said. "It's nice to see them get a few and see a few pucks go in.

"I think even if you're just on the ice, you have nothing to do with the play, just to be around goals is infectious. So it's nice to see those guys make those plays as a result of their hard work and it's an incentive to keep doing the same thing."

Hopefully the goal infection spreads for the Hawks. Despite being six points out of the playoffs, Chicago has three games in hand on the Arizona Coyotes, who occupy the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

With 24 games remaining, scoring contributions will have to come from across the board for the Blackhawks to go on a successful run to secure a playoff spot.

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Andrew Ladd joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Andrew Ladd joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

The Blackhawks got a big lift out of skilled and scrappy forward Andrew Ladd during his first three seasons with the Blackhawks. 

Ladd was selected at No. 4 overall in the 2004 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Maple Ridge, British Columbia native won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 before coming to Chicago in a trade for Tuomo Ruutu on Feb. 26, 2008. 

In four seasons with the Blackhawks, Ladd displayed strength on both sides of the puck, recording 111 points and a +/- rating of +29 in 203 games.

In 19 games during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, Ladd had six points (three goals, three assists) and a +/- rating of +4.

Related: Versteeg joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

After the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, Ladd was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 2011 second-round draft pick in a salary cap move. 

Ladd was traded back to Chicago with Matt Fraser and Jay Harrison for Marko Dano and two draft picks on Feb. 25, 2016. He had 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 19 games in his final season with the Hawks. 

Following the 2015-16 season, he became a free agent and signed a seven-year contract with the New York Islanders.

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