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Blackhawks’ Cam Ward on staying sharp as No. 2: ‘It might not always be pretty’

For five straight games to start the season — admittedly, not a lot — Cam Ward was a fixture in goal for the Blackhawks. It paled in comparison to the decade-plus he spent as the No. 1 goalie in Carolina, but it was crucial for the Hawks as they opened with a record of 3-0-2.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” he said before Tuesday’s game against the Ducks at the United Center.

Ward is, however, downshifting into the role of backup to Corey Crawford, who started for the third time in four games since returning from a nearly 10-month layoff due to a concussion.

With the Hawks announcing Tuesday that Anton Forsberg had been assigned to AHL Rockford, Ward, 34, had his position on the NHL roster solidified. Forsberg, who came to the Hawks from Columbus in the 2017 offseason trade of Artemi Panarin, was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 GAA last season but has not played this season.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Cam Ward (30) defends against Columbus Blue Jackets center Sam Vigneault (74) during the third period of an NHL hockey preseason game Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Chicago. | Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

How Forsberg’s presence affects the playing time and development of prospects Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen in Rockford remains to be seen, but Joel Quenneville said Forsberg is with the IceHogs to play, not to disappear.

Ward, meanwhile, stands to remain in a true No. 2 role for the first time. With former Hawk Scott Darling’s severe struggles after signing with Carolina as its intended No. 1 in 2017-18, Ward ended up starting about half the Hurricanes games.

Does he has a feel yet for how often he needs to play to remain as sharp as he’d like to be?

“It’s hard to say a number, but repetition is everything,” Ward said. “You get into a rhythm and good things happen. But the role changes, so you just do everything you can to stay sharp and give the team the opportunity to win. Some nights, it might not be pretty.”

With Forsberg going down, the Hawks recalled forward Luke Johnson, who was in the lineup against the Ducks for the fourth time this season.

Ready to roll

Quenneville is eager to track the progress of defenseman Gustav Forsling, who was assigned to Rockford on Monday. Forsling, who appeared in 41 games with the Hawks last season, missed all of training camp while recovering from wrist surgery.

“We want to get him playing,” the coach said. “He skated well the last few weeks. Now he’s cleared to have the green light to go. Looking forward to seeing how he plays down there.”

A long time coming

Brent Seabrook played his 1,013th game with the Hawks, tying Eric Nesterenko (1956-72) for third in franchise history. Seabrook — the franchise leader among defensemen — trails Bobby Hull by 23 games and Stan Mikita by 381.

Jonathan Toews also had a milestone game, his 800th with the Hawks.