Ben Smith knows there’s a spot for him on the Blackhawks roster. But he also knows it won’t be handed to him.
After being outplayed by several young players during camp scrimmages, Smith took a step in the right direction in Tuesday’s preseason opener.
Smith and Patrick Sharp scored goals, and Corey Crawford made 19 saves as the Hawks blanked the Detroit Red Wings 2-0.
“It’s nice to get that monkey off the back,” said Smith, who was pointless in camp scrimmages. “A step up from how it’s been. Still nowhere near where it needs to be. It’s a process.”
Smith — along with Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin and Drew LeBlanc (along with the injured Brandon Pirri) — will get the longest looks this preseason as Joel Quenneville tries to plug the holes left by Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik. Quenneville said those guys competing for spots will likely play five of the six preseason games.
So Smith’s deflection of Hayes’ shot from inside the blue line certainly helped his case. Smith is a logical candidate to take over Frolik’s penalty-killing role alongside Marcus Kruger.
“It was a nice play by Jimmy Hayes there, he had the puck and had some nice patience and I just tried to get in front of the net there, plant my butt and get body position,” Smith said. “Jimmy threw a nice wrist shot on net, I was just able to deflect it.”
Crawford wasn’t tested much, but was happy to start the year with a shutout.
“Yeah, that’s the main goal, to not allow any of them in,” he said. “We didn’t give up too much, though. It wasn’t the toughest night. But I felt good in there. I would have liked to maybe get a little more key situations.”
The game was marred early by two boardings by the Red Wings, each leading to a game misconduct. Early in the first period, Hawks defenseman Mike Kostka was laid out behind the goal by Teemu Pulkkinen. Kostka lay on the ice face-down for a few minutes before skating off, mostly under his own power. He did not return.
Quenneville was upset with the hit.
“He’s not bad but he couldn’t play — we’ll have a better assessment tomorrow,” Quenneville said, terming it an upper-body injury. “I saw exactly what happened. I thought it was very dangerous.”