The Chicago Blackhawks have ample bodies on their roster, and coach Joel Quenneville wants to get as many of those bodies into the lineup as possible, especially in these early games.
So on Saturday night, it’s Ben Smith’s turn to get in there.
Smith will play on Saturday when the Blackhawks host the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center. Smith has skated the past two days on the Blackhawks’ third line with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw. Jimmy Hayes was in that right wing spot on Tuesday night.
“We want to get everyone in here over the next few games before we get too far into the season, and (Smith) is likely to play,” Quenneville said. “We have 23 guys; over the course of the season you wish you had 23 guys. Everybody usually gets into the lineup and plays, and it’s just a matter of time before we get everyone in and they’re all a part of it. And when you’re not playing, keep yourself sharp.”
Smith will be with familiar faces, as he, Shaw and Saad played together in Rockford during the lockout last season.
“Having that familiarity is nice, being predictable for each other and knowing what our job is out there,” said Smith, who admits the competition to play never ends, even when training camp does.
“No, it won’t. The competition’s always there,” he said. “Guys who went to Rockford are looking for a shot up here, too. You always need to show what you can do and perform and play well. That’s what I’m looking to do when I get the opportunity again.”
Michal Handzus practiced on Friday and will play against Tampa Bay on Saturday night. The second-line center missed part of Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed injury, although he did return to finish in the Blackhawks’ 6-4 victory over Washington. Handzus, who suffered several injuries during last postseason, said dealing with the bumps and bruises is just part of the job at this point in his career.
“It’s all about knowing your body and doing the rest in between,” he said.
Marian Hossa, who’s also had to be mindful of injuries adding up, is impressed with what Handzus goes through to remain healthy.
“It’s amazing to see what he went through last year and pretty much all summer, just rehabbing after surgeries and in camp and still icing lots of different things. It’s amazing when you see him back there,” Hossa said. “It is what it is and he wants to play, and that’s good for us.”