CHICAGO -- It's only the second game of the season, but Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is quickly dipping into his team's depth prior to playing the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at United Center.
Defenseman Michael Kostka will draw into the starting lineup for the first time with Chicago, likely playing with Nick Leddy on the third pairing, while 25-year-old forward Ben Smith will make his first start of the season playing right wing on the third line.
It's an opportunity for both to make a good impression on Quenneville, who isn't afraid to stray from the regular lineup and give his entire roster a chance to play.
"The hope is to show what you can do when you get those opportunities [to play] and to make those decisions tough for whoever has to make them," said Smith, who has played 20 regular season games and eight playoff games for the Blackhawks. "I was grateful to start here [in Chicago] and I plan on making the most of these opportunities and trying to get this career going."
The 5-foot-11 Smith is replacing 6-foot-6, 221-pound winger Jimmy Hayes and has scored four goals and no assist in his NHL career. He hass also battled some injury issues and has ridden the so-called "Rockford Shuttle" quite a bit between Chicago and the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.