Thursday, February 19, 2009

Smith back on the blue line

This might have been mentioned early by 60, but Brendan Smith is definately back in the lineup for Wisconsin this weekend. He was just on "On Wisconsin" w/ Brian Posick, and is very excited to get back in the lineup and make a difference down the stretch. This is some great news! Smith will once again be paired w/ All-American and Hobey Baker Candidate Jamie McBain. Smith's one-timer on the PP was dominate in the 1st half of the season, and I except McBain to benefit having Smith back on the other side of the ice. While the PP has been good w/ Smith out of the lineup, w/ his return the 1st unit should do even better.

As for Jake Gardiner, it appears he'll be headed back to the 3rd pairing w/ some combination of Craig Johnson, Eric Springer and Ryan Little. Johnson probably has the inside track, but I would expect all three to see some action down the stretch. As for Gardiner, I thought he played well paired w/ McBain for the past month, and has really grown as a player.

I never thought I'd be so excited to have Smith back in the lineup. Last season, he regularly made me cringe, but he has really shored things up on the defensive side of the ice, and while he still have room for improvement, is no longer a liability. On the flip side, his offensive skills were really shining through before injury.