Smith has plenty to prove despite playoff success

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Smith has plenty to prove despite playoff success

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011
Posted: 10:41 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com Blackhawks InsiderFollow @TraMyersCSN
SASKATOON, Saskatchewan -- Ben Smith certainly turned heads in his playoff stint with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He was one of the few guys scoring early against Vancouver, and his Game 6 overtime winner secured the Blackhawks a Game 7.

But that was then. And for Smith, last years production doesnt have much to do with making this years team.

Right off the bat, nothings guaranteed. I was told that at the end of last year, Smith said. So I knew that I have to come into camp and have a good one and prove that I belong.

So far, hes doing that.

Smith is showing the same qualities now that he did last spring: toughness, net presence and strength. This is a tough Blackhawks roster to crack, but Smith worked on some things this summer in hopes of joining it.

Im just trying to do the little things well: blocking shots, getting shots off quick and just trying to be strong in front of the net, which is what I showed I could do at the end of last year, he said. Im just trying to get better at the small things. Hopefully that shows.

Coach Joel Quenneville likes what he sees early.

Bens looked good. Hes prided himself to take that next step, he said. You see his fitness tests and see him on the ice. No one works harder, nobodys more determined. Hes had a real good camp.

Smith isnt a big guy 5-foot-11, and he said hes now around 210 pounds but hes still good at the grit work. He showed that plenty in the Vancouver series last spring, playing like a veteran when the Blackhawks struggled to get production from some of their top guys.

No, his postseason work probably wont have much bearing on September decisions. But Smith is nevertheless a more comfortable, confident guy this fall because of it.

I hope that helps but at the same time its a whole new season, Smith said. Theyre judging off this training camp, and its up to us to be ready to go.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Marian Hossa named Blackhawks' nominee for 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Marian Hossa named Blackhawks' nominee for 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

The Chicago chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has selected Marian Hossa to be the Blackhawks' nominee for the 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

The 38-year-old winger has bounced back in a huge way following a 2015-16 campaign where he had only 13 goals and 20 assists in 64 games. 

Hossa is tied for second on the team with 24 goals and ranks sixth on the club with 42 points in 66 contests this season. He ranks fourth among active players with 1,131 points, and recently surpassed Pat Verbeek to move into 35th all-time in goals scored with 523.

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Three finalists from the 30 NHL teams will be named at the end of the regular season.

Pit Martin (1969-70) and Bryan Berard (2003-04) are the only two players in Blackhawks history to win the honor.

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Perhaps the best thing about the Johnny Oduya trade back to the Blackhawks, for both parties involved, was that Oduya wasn't needed immediately.

It's not that the Blackhawks didn't want the veteran defenseman, who helped them win Cups in 2013 and 2015, back in the lineup as soon as possible. Oduya was coming off an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated and missed about a month when he was with the Dallas Stars. He needed time to fully heal and with the Blackhawks in good shape in the standings and with solid depth at defense, he could.

Now with the playoffs right around the corner, Oduya is feeling more like himself.

Outside of missing two games that were the second halves of back-to-backs, Oduya has been playing steadily since March 9. Oduya's minutes have ranged from around 16 to 21 in games. He said he's now 100 percent healthy from his injury and he's feeling the difference on the ice.

"It makes a big difference," Oduya said on Thursday, prior to facing the Stars for the first time since his trade back to Chicago. "I mean, obviously sometimes you get more or less lucky, depending on what you get and the style of play and what you do or not. Skating is a part of my game I try to use as much as possible to get in good position and try to take away time from the opposition as much as possible.

"Even with battling and things like that, of course it's nice to feel more confident," Oduya added. "In any situation, you're in you want to feel confident on the ice."

The Blackhawks have seen that confidence in previous postseason runs and are looking to see it again in Oduya. Coach Joel Quenneville considers Oduya, "Mr. Reliability."

"You look back at what he delivered for us, not just the regular season, but he's been solid and reliable in the playoffs. He's assumed some important matchups and important minutes," Quenneville said. "Last year, we didn't have him on the back end and watching him this year, it was the perfect fit him coming back."

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The Blackhawks' defensive group hasn't changed much since Oduya's first stint here. The system probably hasn't been altered much, either. Still, Oduya's not taking anything for granted and is trying to get back on the same page quickly.

"Same as the last time I came into a great hockey team and I really just want to get up to speed and up to date as quickly as possible," Oduya said. "Little things that may have changed. I want to fit in as well as I can. That's the idea anyone has coming in late in the year. The guys here make it pretty easy; the coaching staff is familiar with the way I play and helps speed up things a little more."

The Blackhawks are trying to be their best heading into the postseason. So is Oduya. He needed a little extra time to get back to health and he may still need a little time to get back to speed, but he's just about there. 

"I feel pretty good. Of course it's a lot easier when you have guys around you you've seen before, a coaching staff," Oduya said. "It's a work in progress, anyway. I want to be better, I want to evolve with the team and want us to be better, too. It's a work in progress."