Every person has that moment in his or her life when they realize, “The time is now.”
In terms of his career, and his opportunity to become a full-time member of the Chicago Blackhawks, Smith feels he’s currently at that moment.
“I’m 25 years old now. I’ve grown a lot as a player and a person the last three years. That gives me more motivation,” said Smith. “It’s time to make this happen, come to work every day toward that goal.”
[WATCH: Blackhawks' Smith scores his second preseason goal]
And with his work in recent preseason games, Smith could very well achieve that.
Smith scored two goals in as many games, including a short-handed effort, as he attempts to fulfill his NHL dream once again. Smith’s preseason outings have reversed his course this training camp, which didn’t start out so hot. He’s been noticeable in games and has used his strength down low and in front of the net, which coach Joel Quenneville called Smith’s “bread and butter.”
“You find a way to utilize him because he’s effective in a lot of different ways,” Quenneville said. “He’s a competitive kid and you always root for him.”
Smith was more than effective in 2011, when he provided key goals in the team’s seven-game Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Vancouver Canucks. Smith hasn’t found a hold on the team since, be it from others emerging or his own injuries.
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He was a prime candidate to make the team when camp began in September of 2011. Then he took a nasty hit to head from Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith in a late September preseason game. Brendan Smith was suspended eight games for the hit; Ben Smith was sidelined with a concussion until mid October, when he was assigned to Rockford.
Injury misfortune came again this past January. Smith was set to come up to Chicago from Rockford or the Blackhawks’ abbreviated training camp, which began Jan. 13. Two days before that, however, Smith, the IceHogs’ leading scorer at the time, got into a fight that led to a hand injury.
Now Smith has another chance. He’s healthy and, in the last week, really pushing for his spot here. He’s competing against familiar faces: several of his Rockford teammates. But they all take it for what it is, and friendships aren’t damaged by the audition process.
“You have to understand it’s a competition,” he said. “You can’t get mad at a guy who’s trying his best, working his hardest. Just have to worry about yourself. We haven’t talked about it, those of us fighting for (roster spots). It’s just the way it is. It’s a business. The decisions aren’t made by us, so it’s a little less awkward. Whoever makes them will eventually make them.”
Smith will likely get another preseason game or two to state his case. He feels his time is now. It’s up to him to capitalize on it.
“That’s been the goal all along,” Smith said of staying here. “You can’t take a shift off. It’s everyone’s dream. It’s certainly mine, to play every day here.”