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.