The record indicates 3-6-1 through the first ten games of an expansion season. The message indicates a reinforced plan and direct road ahead to improvement.
With three games in six days incoming against the Buffalo Sabres – on Jack Eichel “trade watch” – and two on the road against the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights, the Seattle Kraken returned to practice for the first time in two weeks with their projected one-two punch in net, Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger, taking all of the reps.
Driedger, activated on Tuesday to re-join the active roster while Joey Daccord headed back to Charlotte of the American Hockey League, said he felt a “tweak” in his knee on a third period goal scored by Joel Farabee, Oct. 18 in a 6-1 loss at Philadelphia. With the rehab process complete, his mission is to recapture the form that sent him to league leading rankings in goals-against-average (fifth) and save percentage (tied, fourth).
The Kraken returned earlier that morning after a 5-2 defeat to the high-octane Edmonton Oilers, coming off a challenge as stiff as they’ve seen all season and a power play that’s gone through a five-game drought (0-of-17). On the defensive side of special teams (penalty killing), they’re eating up opposing teams (seventh, 87 percent). On the offensive of special teams, they’re famished.
What they have ahead of them: a lineup that is still waiting to get Jared McCann, Marcus Johansson, and Colin Blackwell back from the shelf, a Sabres team that has upset its way to a 5-2-1 record despite a loss on Tuesday at San Jose, an Arizona team that hasn’t yet won a game (0-9-1), and a projected-to-contend Golden Knights team that’s 4-5 and is missing Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, and Nolan Patrick.
- As typical throughout the days they opt to skate at the Kraken Community Iceplex, the Kraken spent the first half of the session on the facility’s second ice sheet, moving over a fresh cut for the last half of practice which included forechecking, two-on-one rushes, and power play drills.
- No changes to the original combos and defensive pairings that were set out two nights ago in Edmonton, with Yanni Gourde and Ryan Donato staying late after practice to work on one-timers with assistant coach Jay Leach. At the other end: Max McCormick and Morgan Geekie getting in extra net front work with goaltending coach Andrew Allen (with assistant coach Paul McFarland still out due to COVID-19 protocol).
- No Jared McCann either, who remains in COVID-19 protocol as well and was last seen on ice last Saturday, before a late scratch prior to Sunday night’s face-off against the Rangers.
- Colin Blackwell and Marcus Johansson were first seen on the ice before the main group, taking extra shots on net with their timetable still uncertain as far as a return from lower body ailments.
PRACTICE: FORWARD LINES
Tanev - Gourde - Jarnkrok
Donato - Geekie - Eberle
Schwartz - Wennberg - Donskoi
McCormick - Sheahan - Bastian
PRACTICE: DEFENSIVE PAIRS
H. Fleury – Borgen
FROM THE PODIUM:
Goaltender Chris Driedger on the origin of his injury:
“It actually happened during the Philly game on a goal that went in. I just kind of tweaked the knee a little bit and didn't really think it was going to be a huge deal. I kind of felt it during the game and the next day, it was ‘no bueno’. So pretty much, I realized ‘okay I'm hurt’ so we started the rehab process. As a goalie you kind of need to get into those positions on the post and stuff, so you can't really just slap a brace on it and get back in there. So it's a little more of a longer process but everything's pretty minor, so we're back and feeling good, and ready to go.”
Driedger on the process to return to game action:
“It was pretty minor injury. It was sore for like, not even 24 hours of actual inflammation but there's pretty much just getting me comfortable going into different positions. When you go down in the butterfly (position) you put a lot of torque on the knee. So it just trying to get back in those positions and feel comfortable, and not feel like I'm hesitating due to pain or anything like that. So it's a bit of a process but we went through it, and here we are.”
Driedger on if he knows when he’ll play next:
“I haven't been told. So I'm sure they're talking about it, but I'm not privy to those conversations. So I stop the puck when they tell me to.” (laughter)
Head coach Dave Hakstol on when he plans to play Driedger:
“I don't have a schedule. Today was his first full day of practice. You guys have talked to him before I have, to be honest, after practice so I’ll have a good chance to talk with him and just get a really good feel for how the day went. He looked good out there. He worked through a good 50 minute practice. So that's a good first step for sure.”
Hakstol on what needs to change for power play production to increase:
“We’ve got to get one to go (into the net) for us. Now if you go back and kind of tear down the game in Edmonton, I look at it and I see six ‘grade-A’ opportunities. I’d like to have a little bit of puck luck somewhere along the way. So until that starts happening and going our way, we’re going to have to get a little hungry around the blue paint and we’ve got to get a little hungry on seconds and really work to find one. Our zone time and our opportunities have been good coming off of pretty clean zone entries. End of the day, it's about finding the back of the net.”
Hakstol on the overall progress of the Kraken game:
“Yeah, big narrative on the scoring side of it. You know, we had good looks and good opportunities. The thing that has to remain is playing sound defensively. There's probably one or two that we've given up, last five game segment that are too easy. So we can control that. We’ve got to clean those up and take those away. Then on the offensive side, again, same thing with continue creating zone time, creating off transition – which we are – and then until we start getting the bounce or two around the net, we got to get a little hungrier. I'm confident our guys will do that.”
Hakstol on the gained benefit of having Grubauer and Driedger at his option, with 12 back-to-back sets of games remaining on the schedule:
“Having two goaltenders is critical for sure in this league – whether it's back to backs, or just through events, through a regular rhythm of a schedule. So, having (Driedger) back will be very important. That being said, you know, Joey (Daccord) did a good job while he was here. Just like any other player that would come into our dressing room or an injury situation, you'd expect that player to be ready to play, to step up, and to be able to help us win.”
Hakstol if there’s a planned ‘goalie 1a / 1b situation’ ahead:
“It’s not a prediction that I want to make as we go forward. Too many things change in the short term from injuries, to performance, to the different segments of the schedule. The rhythm we’ve had (Philipp Grubauer) in has been comfortable. We've had good practice time. Over the last two weeks here, we've had a pretty good rhythm in terms of rest and days off. And the games for whether it's Chris, or in the past couple of weeks, for Joey to step in and play will be very, very important in terms of the numbers of them. I don't have a prediction for you on that right now.”
What Hakstol looks at as far as rotating in defensemen in the lineup (Fleury, Soucy, Borgen):
“Well for the seven guys that are playing it's their roles. Right now, you know, Will (Borgen) hasn't gotten into a game obviously, so he's in a little different situation. But the seven guys that have been rotating in through the lineup, it's roles. The roles that they play during the game specifically, and then in game performance.”