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.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.