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.

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.

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