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Cam Ward to start in Blackhawks’ season opener vs. Senators

Henri Jokiharju, Luke Johnson and Dominik Kahun will also make their NHL debuts for Chicago.

NHL: Preseason-Chicago Blackhawks at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Ward will start in net for the Chicago Blackhawks for the team’s season opener when they visit the Ottawa Senators on Thursday at Canadian Tire Centre.

Ward signed a one-year contract worth $3 million in the offseason with Chicago as an insurance goaltender while the team waits for No. 1 netminder Corey Crawford battles back from a concussion last December. On Monday, coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford could return as soon as Oct. 18 against the Coyotes — the team’s sixth game of the season. The 34-year-old Ward was 23-14-4 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in 43 games last season with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Collin Delia will serve as Ward’s backup after Anton Forsberg was hit by a puck during Thursday’s morning skate. The 24-year-old Delia was 1-1 with the Hawks last season, earning a win with a 27-save performance against the Jets in March. His outing was overshadowed by emergency backup goalie Scott Foster, who stepped in after Delia suffered an injury in the third period.

Delia went 17-7-2 with a .900 save percentage and a 2.72 goals-against average last season for the IceHogs in the AHL. He also won seven consecutive games and was 7-3 with a 2.34 GAA and a .924 save percentage in the playoffs as Rockford reached the Western Conference Final.

Three Blackhawks will be making their NHL debuts: defenseman Henri Jokiharju, center Luke Johnson and winger Dominik Kahun. Jokiharju, a 2017 first-round draft pick, is scheduled to skate alongside Duncan Keith on the first pairing. The undrafted free agent signee Kahun is slated on the right side on the first line and Johnson is centering the fourth line.

Also making their Chicago debuts will be veterans Chris Kunitz, who played for the Lightning last season, and Brandon Manning, who was on the Flyers blue line. Kunitz is on the left side of the third line, while Manning is paired with Brent Seabrook on the second line.

The Senators will begin the post-Erik Karlsson era after trading the two-time Norris Trophy defenseman to the Sharks in the offseason.

Chris Tierney, Mikkel Boedker, Dylan DeMelo and Max Lajoie are all former San Jose players in Ottawa’s lineup. Boedker, who scored 25 times the past two seasons for the Sharks, was acquired in the Mike Hoffman trade. Boedker and Tierney are on the third line with rookie Alex Formenton.

Senators first-round pick Brady Tkachuk will miss the game with a mild groin strain. Tkachuk earned a spot on Ottawa’s roster after tallying a goal, an assist, eight shots and eight hits in four preseason games.

Two Chicago-area natives will be in action for the Senators with goaltender Craig Anderson (Bollingbrook) and top line winger Ryan Dzingel (Wheaton).




Dzingel — Duchene — Ryan

Smith — White — Stone

Formenton — TierneyBoedker

McCormick — Pyatt — Paajarvi


Chabot — Wideman

Borowiecki — Ceci

Lajoie — DeMelo

How to watch

Start time: 6:30 p.m. Central

Location: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa