Coming out of training camp and a hot preseason, Chicago Blackhawks wing Ben Smith had shown the development the team wanted to see. Smith, in his career, has tallied 14 points, including some big goals throughout his still young career.
However, the fact that Smith has 10 points to his name in an increasing fourth line role where he averages 11:46 of on-ice time per game shows that Smith is no longer on the verge of the NHL, as he was last year.
Smith is now a staple of the Blackhawks fourth line, the team’s checking line. Centered by Marcus Kruger and with Brandon Bollig now also a permanent fixture in the Blackhawks lineup, the team’s checking line has increased its productivity. Seeing Smith and Bollig on the fourth line should remind Blackhawks fans of the fourth lines that led the team to two Stanley Cup runs in four years.
The 25-year-old Smith still has evolved his game by leaps and bounds over the course of his career. However, the change is more noticeable than ever due to the career-high workload Smith is seeing. Each game is a new experience, and with the rigors of an 82-game schedule in effect, Smith should see more time than ever.
Blackhawks third line winger Andrew Shaw will likely return tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers, meaning the Blackhawks lines will once again have a little bit of normalcy to them. With Smith, Bollig and Kruger reunited on the fourth line, coach Joel Quenneville should see that the fourth line get an increased workload, while the schedule is tight, and the quality of opponents are less than elite.
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