(Photo: Chicago Blackhawks Facebook)

 


The Blackhawks are kicking off the 2018-19 season tonight against the Senators in Ottawa, with a mantra of hope following last season’s early playoff exit and and a string of unfortunate luck.

Netminder Corey Crawford remains on the long-term injured reserve following concussion symptoms that sidelined him in January (he was medically-cleared to practice this week) and backup goalie Anton Forsberg was injured during the morning skate.

Cam Ward, with a 2.70 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 668 NHL games (and a Conn Smythe trophy and 2006 Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes) is expected in net.

AHL Rockford IceHogs goalie Collin Delia has been recalled as backup. Delia has a 3.96 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in two NHL games, but a 2.72 goals-against average and .900 save percentage in 28 AHL regular season games and a 2.34 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in the team’s playoffs.

Ward is 18-8-3 in 29 games against the Senators.

The Blackhawks as a whole are 22-9-2-1 in 34 all-time matchups against Ottawa. They won 5-2 Sept. 21 against the Senators, but fell 2-1 Sept. 27 in the preseason.

Their preseason record was 2-4-0.

While the Blackhawks’ roster looks a little different again this year, key players still hold significant roles in the planned lineup.

Alex Debrincat is likely to play with Captain Jonathan Toews and NHL newcomer Dominik Kahun; Brandon Saad is expected on the second line with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick KaneChris Kunitz will join center Artem Anisimov and David Kampf; and Marcus Kruger will wing Luke Johnson with Andreas Martinsen. John Hayden is expected to rotate in the lineup as needed.

Toews told media he is optimistic about the new lineup:

“We’ve had a lot of turnover these last number of years. But I think we got a lot of young guys that have shown a lot in training camp, and guys that are excited to take part [in] a team that’s looking to bounce back.”

 

Toews, who had 20 goals last season and has hit 20 or more goals all of his 11 NHL seasons, has been working on his net-front presence.

 

 

 

Blackhawks’ expected defensive pairings are Duncan Keith and rookie Henri Jokiharju; Brandon Manning and Brent Seabrook; and a rotation of Erik Gustafsson, Brandon Davidson, and Jan Rutta.

Seabrook complimented Jokiharju during the preseason:

“I think he’s good, I think he’s smooth. His skating, it’s a lot different than mine. I’ve got to play a little more positionally. He can get himself in trouble a little bit and make up for it. So it’s impressive to see a kid come in at an age like that and play as well as he has in training camp.”

 

Kane, who led the team in points last year, shared optimism for the new team:

“I like it. It’s a young group, but you look around the room [and] a lot of the younger guys have a lot to prove, [and so do] the older guys. You kind of embrace the underdog role.”

 

Matt Duchene (23 goals and 26 assists in 68 games for the Senators last season), Colin White, and Mark Stone are the, according to the Blackhawks, the Senators’ players to watch in this season opener.

 

 

 

 

The teams face off at 6:30 p.m. CT Thursday. The Blackhawks face the Blues at 7:00 p.m. Saturday and host the Maple Leafs at 6:00 p.m. Sunday for their home opener.

 

Carly grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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