Chicago Blackhawks prospect Ben Smith's game is to work hard and be at the right place at the right time. Thus far this season for Chicago's AFL affiliate in Rockford, that place has been in front of the net.
A year removed from an injury plagued campaign, Smith has been making the most of his time with the IceHogs. Following this weekend's action, Smith leads all Rockford goal scorers with 10 tallies.
The former Boston College captain and Chicago's sixth-round pick in 2008 is second on the team with 20 points through 25 games. Besides serving as an alternate captain, Smith is claiming the area in front of the crease on a regular basis.
Smith had a six-game points streak come to a close Saturday night in a loss to the Chicago Wolves. However, the night before, Smith had a pair of goals to go along with an assist in Rockford's 5-3 win over Milwaukee. Sunday saw the 24-year-old Right Wing pick up his 10th helper of the season despite the IceHogs' loss to Grand Rapids.
Re-direction has been Smith's stock and trade over his last dozen games. Most of his seven goals in this stretch have come in this fashion, including two third-period scores Friday that brought the IceHogs back from a 3-1 deficit.
A concussion and hip issues limited Smith to 38 games in Rockford along with 13 games with the Blackhawks. With two 31-point efforts in his first two AHL seasons, a healthy Smith could easily eclipse his career-high in points in the next few months.
IceHogs Drop Out Of First
The 4-2 loss to Grand Rapids Sunday afternoon vaulted the Griffins over Rockford for first place in the AHL's Midwest Division. The IceHogs, who have 27 points, trail Grand Rapids by a single point in the standings.
The winners of seven of their last 10 outings, Rockford is tied with three other teams for fourth place in the Western Conference.
Leading In Something
The IceHogs currently lead the AHL with 601 penalty minutes.
Andrew Shaw, Kyle Beach and Rob Flick were all involved in scraps in the second period Sunday, and Rockford was assessed 55 minutes of penalties (Grand Rapids was on the hook for 77 minutes).
Shaw also got into an altercation Saturday night, as Rockford piled up another 52 minutes of penalties.
Special Teams Shine
Rockford may not be able to stay out of the penalty box, but they are turning in effective performances on special teams.
The IceHogs' power play has been red-hot lately with 16 goals in the last 12 games. They are tied for the league lead with 25 on the season, and their 21 percent success rate is good for sixth in the AHL.
Rockford's penalty kill has not allowed a 5-on-3 goal in 13 chances for the opposition. Over the last six games, the team has allowed just two goals on 27 chances.
Morin's Status In Question
Jeremy Morin also got into a scuffle Saturday and may be missing some time for it. Midway through the third period, Morin faced off with Chicago's Kevin Connauton only to seemingly take an uppercut to the chin. Connauton landed another big shot, with Morin hanging on for dear life before the two were separated.
Connauton went to the box while Morin went straight to the locker room. Morin returned for the final minutes but was held out of Sunday's action. There is no word on any injury he may have sustained, but the team was probably smart to hold him out of the game in Grand Rapids.
Other Injury Updates
Defenseman Joe Lavin will be missing most of the rest of the month due to a broken wrist sustained November 24 in Lake Erie. Lavin had appeared to have been coming around after a slow start to the season with assists in three straight games when he went down.
Brandon Svensden, who is in Rockford on an AHL contract, is nearing a return from an injury to his right arm suffered before the season. Svensden is practicing and if he isn't sent down to Toledo could return for the IceHogs' next game December 14 at Milwaukee.