Chicago Blackhawks prospect Ben Smith is in a situation he knows all too well. A few weeks ago, Smith was playing great hockey and was seemingly a lock to be called up to Chicago when training camp finally opened. Now his teammates are skating for both the 'Hawks and IceHogs while he waits out another injury.
Smith suffered an injury to his left hand January 11 in a 5-2 win over Grand Rapids. He finished the contest but is now sporting a cast over his thumb. Smith likely won't be back in the Rockford lineup for at least another couple of weeks.
That's too bad, because the IceHogs sure could use a jolt from one of their team leaders.
Rockford won two straight with Smith missing from the lineup before brawling with the Griffins January 19 and subsequently losing that game 11-6. The IceHogs are currently on a six-game slide following a disappointing 3-2 in Houston on Sunday.
The IceHogs led the game 2-1 near the midway point of the third period on goals by Jimmy Hayes and Kyle Beach. However, two goals in 58 seconds on goalie Carter Hutton turned the tide.
Sunday was Rockford's first loss this season when leading after two periods. The defeat also extends what is a franchise-worst losing streak.
Recently acquired goalie Henrik Karlsson made his debut Friday in San Antonio, stopping 18 of 19 shots. Unfortunately, that wasn't good enough, as Rockford was blanked for the second time this season, losing 1-0 to the Rampage.
In the face of a lot of roster turnover, the IceHogs have not handled the end of the NHL lockout as well as other AHL teams. Rockford is 3-7 in its last 10 games and has plummeted out of playoff contention. The IceHogs, with 42 points, currently sit 14th in the 15-team Western Conference. By comparison, Houston is in the last playoff spot with 51 points.
Just like that, the IceHogs are looking at a wide chasm between them and the postseason. Like Smith, who lost a roster spot on the 'Hawks a season ago via a concussion, Rockford is in familiar territory.
The IceHogs have brought in players post-lockout. Here's a quick rundown of how things have shaken out.
Goodbye: Defenseman Brett Lebda was released from his professional tryout contract. Goalie Alec Richards has been loaned to a German club and has likely seen his last action with the Blackhawks organization.
Also leaving the system is forward Pete LeBlanc, who only last season led Rockford in goals. LeBlanc was traded to the Washington Capitals for future considerations.
Hello: Kenndal McArdle was signed to an AHL deal by the IceHogs, as was center Brad Mills. Rockford also acquired right winger Mathieu Beaudoin from the AHL's Hershey Bears. Both Mills and Beaudoin made their debuts with Rockford this past weekend. Center David Gilbert, who has been up and down the last few weeks, is currently with the IceHogs.
Henrik Karlsson is now the backup goalie to Carter Hutton, having come over from the Calgary organization.
Hello, Goodbye: Adam Hobson and Mickey Lang were signed to PTOs to fill in the roster while several IceHogs were serving suspensions from the Grand Rapids brawl. Hobson played in two games for Rockford while Lang skated in one. Both players were released from those contracts.