An optional skate today for the Seattle Kraken comes on the back end of a four game homestand – where rest has been a routine in three of four game days – and there’s not much to blame with a win tonight giving the Kraken a 3-1 finish in the first four games at home, preparing for their only visit of the season from the New York Rangers at Climate Pledge Arena (6pm).
Remember the third period being an issue? There are signs that issue is becoming shored up: the Kraken have outscored the opposition 3-0 in the third period over the last two wins, taking games that were either close, or incomplete, and finishing to put the opposition out of commission. Jared McCann leads the Kraken with seven points in eight games, while Yanni Gourde, at a point per game since his debut, has six points in his last six games against the Rangers.
The Rangers have been no slouch since the onboarding of head coach Gerard Gallant, formerly of the Vegas Golden Knights expansion start-up and a hot rumor about a calendar year ago for the Kraken head coaching job. He took over a program with new talent on the rise that’s missed the playoffs in three of the last four years but is loading up for the long term in Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafrenière, and Adam Fox. Left winger Chris Kreider, the lone holdover from the Rangers last Cup Final team (2013-14), is still ticking with five power play goals.
He’s scored all five of the Rangers power play goals.
Stay out of the box, and if you can’t, keep the puck off Kreider’s stick.
But overall, Dave Hakstol, not needing much time to share the message before tonight’s game, stuck with the same approach internally, rather than worry about details on the Rangers side:
“Work hard, defend well, and be ready to transition and get up ice together.”
-A total of 12 players made it onto the ice for the optional skate, including goaltenders Joey Daccord and Chris Driedger getting in extra work. Philipp Grubauer was absent, suggesting rest prepares him for another start. Grubauer was confirmed after the skate that he will start in net, giving him starts in all four games of the homestand.
-Lineup changes: with an optional skate at hand along with back-to-back wins already in the record books, we’ll see if there is any change (if at all) from practice, just 24 hours ago. For the record, there are two players left on the Kraken roster, yet to make their Kraken debut: forward Max McCormick (recalled yesterday from Charlotte), and defenseman Will Borgen.
-That alone presents an interesting question: who goes in the second game of back-to-back games? Grubauer could go again tomorrow night against the Edmonton Oilers and by many, consensus best-player-on-the-planet Connor McDavid, but then the importance of tonight lies on limiting Grubauer’s workload. It’s wait and see and per Dave Hakstol, no looking into the future beyond tonight’s 6pm puck drop.
-Special teams: look to see if the battle can be won if the penalty box door opens. The Kraken own the fourth best penalty kill in the league at this point (16-of-18 for 88%), while the Rangers special teams rank bottom half of the league: 22ndin power play (17%), and 19thin penalty killing (80%). However, the Kraken are still looking for their first home power play goal (0-of-10).
-The Rangers, who have won four games in a row, come off a convincing 4-0 win at Madison Square Garden two days ago over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Rangers then took a five-hour, cross-country flight yesterday to the Puget Sound, looking to get adjusted to time zone changes (look for that be a factor as they start out their first game of a four-game road trip).
-The Rangers will go with Igor Shesterkin in net, 4-1 with a spectacular .944 save percentage (tied for sixth best with Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky).
-Broadcast notes: on air at 5:30pm for the Coors Light pre-game show, while Everett Fitzhugh and Dave Tomlinson carry you with play-by-play and color analysis starting at 6pm. We’ll hear in an exclusive one-on-one conversation with Haydn Fleury in the first intermission, and welcome ROOT Sports’ Nick Gismondi to “Talkin’ Kraken” after the game.
By the way, we’re now bringing in the Coors Light Text Line for post-game coverage (text us your questions and Kraken comments to 49451)!