VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- You'll have to excuse Ben Smith if the 22-year-old Blackhawks rookie has a hard time grasping where he is right now.
A few weeks ago Smith was playing out the the American Hockey League in Rockford, hoping perhaps for a chance to be called up and be one of the Hawks' extras in the playoffs.
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That call-up did come, a bit earlier because of injuries, but Smith was no extra Wednesday night when the Hawks opened the Stanley Cup playoffs. There he was on the second line, playing with Patrick Kane against the high-powered Vancouver Canucks in a game televised nationally throughout Canada.
"I'm definitely a little nervous," Smith said before Game 1 at Rogers Arena. "It's something that you do your whole life and hope for this moment. I'm just trying to help this team any way possible.
"You have to prepare for anything and I'm here and ready to help this team. When you get called up you never know how long it's going to be for. You just try to bring your best effort every day, and I think I've done that."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville showed the confidence he has in Smith by keeping him in the lineup Wednesday even as Troy Brouwer returned from a shoulder injury.
"They don't say much, but you'd like to think they're happy with you if you keep staying in the lineup," Smith said.
"Benny gives some offense and some predictability defensively," Quenneville said. "He's played well and has skated well and has patience with the puck and protects it well.
"He's been around some big stages and some big games, and he's been around some winning environments."
Exactly a year ago Smith was helping lead Boston College to the NCAA title, winning the MVP award at the Frozen Four.
Smith was one of five Hawks making their playoff debuts and one of 10 on the roster who set out to defend a Stanley Cup that was won without them in June.
Smith said everyone still wants to be part of the defense of the Cup whether they were there or not.
"Just being around the organization it was all about getting to the playoffs and defending," Smith said. "You're just part of the aura of this organization.
"The guys that were here, they're the leaders and the guys we all look up to. They're passionate and they won it. We want to do it for the Blackhawks, but also for those guys because they're great players and they deserve it."