Thursday morning brought the dawn of a new day, and for many with the Seattle Kraken, the dawn of the next important task.
The Kraken, eliminated from playoff contention on Wednesday night after a 3-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, took no time off. They took to the ice instead, a fresh-cut sheet at Kraken Community Iceplex ready for Joonas Donskoi and Philipp Grubauer, who touched ice first at 10:45am and were followed by rest of the team.
It set the tone of a team already looking ahead to the next set of realistic goals, rather than reflecting on a past shortcoming.
“You’re trying to find individual things and things to build for next season,” said forward and alternate captain Jordan Eberle. “But you look at where this team’s at, Vegas, and how important these points are, you have to match their desperation but also internal things wanting to disrupt their playoff chances.”
A total of 15 games are left in the regular season, a roadmap to success from what many of the Kraken have hinted as an audition for roles next season. They will play Vegas one more time, a rematch on Friday night at Climate Pledge Arena, aiming to do the same to the Golden Knights as they did to the Los Angeles Kings: avenge a loss from the first game of a series.
The Kraken, after that, will take on Dallas Stars on Sunday. Dallas is one point back of the Golden Knights for the final playoff spot – meaning, another chance to play spoiler.
“Ultimately, keep pushing, (we’re) creating a culture here,” said defenseman Haydn Fleury, who returned to the routine practice group in a tinted visor and red non-contact jersey.
“Play hard, play for the people of Seattle. They’re really proud of this team. At the end of the day we have to have some pride ending the season the right way for this city.”
That’s Fleury’s mission, healthy enough to return to practice after missing the last three games due to injury. Although his presence indicates progress in returning to the lineup, head coach Dave Hakstol said “no updates” with regards to his progress.
Forward Jaden Schwartz, still missing as day-to-day is likely out on a “week to week” basis, according to Hakstol. Both players have missed the last three games.
Hakstol declined to name a starting goaltender until Friday, despite the strong effort by Chris Driedger over the last two games, racking up 37 saves in a win over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday then following up with a strong 28 save effort against Vegas.
Hakstol said Driedger, who has been seeing a sports psychologist lately, battled Wednesday night with “a nice step forward in his game” and returned Thursday morning to work on adjustments.
“That’s just being a pro,” said Hakstol. “There’s nothing spectacular about that. If we start giving guys props for working hard at their game, we’re in the wrong spot. Those are the expectations. You work at your game, you work to improve, you’re all in every day.”
KRAKEN PRACTICE, MAR. 31: