With the Kraken Community Iceplex opening to a warm reunion of a Seattle Kraken group for an 11:30am practice on Wednesday, eager for the taste of home ice again, the chilling reality is a pair of back-to-back losses, both with leads late into the second period or beyond, have expedited psychological and physical needs to get back on track for the long haul.
The good news: they have forward Jared McCann activated from COVID-19 protocol and a six-game map to rebound from a 4-8-1 start and a Tuesday night, 4-2 defeat at Vegas with nothing but home ice to serve those needs, and the reality of playing in front of their home fans, where they are 3-2 in their first five home contests.
“Oh boy, you know in a busy schedule, especially in the Western Conference, travel is a part of daily life, right?,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “There are different challenges and as you get home, everybody appreciates being at home. We’ve quickly grown to appreciate the atmosphere and our building, which is awesome.”
The Kraken, selling out every game so far on their home schedule, will get their first taste of a surprising Anaheim Ducks squad on Thursday night at Climate Pledge Arena (7pm), who improved to 7-4-1 in an overtime win last night at Vancouver.
After that: Minnesota, Chicago, Colorado, Washington and Carolina are next.
“I continue to have people from around the country asking if ‘people are really having that much fun in that building, It looks awesome’,” said Hakstol. “And my answer is ‘yeah, it's awesome. Yeah, atmosphere is good there.’ It’s a group that we want to play well in front of, we want to play hard for.”
The Kraken moved on for those preparations with small area games, two-on-one drills, and power play sequences with no Yanni Gourde on Wednesday, who didn’t play late in the third period after absorbing a point shot off the knee, despite returning late in the second period for (at the moment) a critical go-ahead goal with a snapshot from the right circle.
Hakstol confirmed Gourde is day-to-day for a potential return.
As for where the Kraken stand with addressing in-game adjustments, especially managing shifts after goal (both victimized the Kraken at Arizona and Vegas), acknowledgement of direct psychology has helped.
"To give that back the way we did, that's the scenario we have to address," said Hakstol. "Regardless of the technicality of what should have happened differently on the play, mentality is a piece of that."
PRACTICE SHUFFLE SLIDES IN McCANN
In Gourde’s absence, the Kraken slotted Alex Wennberg into the center role between Brandon Tanev and Calle Jarnkrok. The spot vacated by Wennberg? Pretty easy to fill, with McCann installed between Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle, a reunion of sorts from a stint together as a trio in the pre-season.
McCann, sidelined Oct. 31 before the Kraken faced the New York Rangers, said his journey back from illness included watching intently on television, and managing space in his 1,000-square foot apartment building with a stationary bike and resistance bands to maintain strength. Still, the journey to return was a battle.
“It hit me pretty hard,” said McCann.
McCann was the Kraken leading scorer (seven points, eight games) at the time of his exit and came back to practice with several backhand and forehand attempts through drills that sailed into the upper corners of the net, while also getting practice time on a power play unit as a figure at the right hash marks, ideal for uncorking his heavy shot.
The first day back certainly beats watching from home.
“The game looks a lot easier,” said McCann to a chorus of laughter. “I know what you guys are like. No, I get it. I understand it. Just watching it, you know you miss the game. And that’s how I know I’m not ready to retire anytime soon."
Colin Blackwell, with no change to his injury status from Hakstol, still progressed to take regular reps on the right wing with center Riley Sheahan and left wing Ryan Donato (who was in a red non-contact jersey on the road trip, but has since shed those colors).
McCann, according to Hakstol, will be a game-day decision on Thursday for returning to the lineup.
Max McCormick, visibly absent from practice in addition to Gourde, had his next move officially sealed shortly after practice, reassigned to the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers.
The 29-year old left winger, erupting to start the year with five points in four games for Charlotte, has five games with the Kraken and last night delivered three hits in 7:31 of ice time, primarily playing alongside Sheahan and Nathan Bastian.
PRACTICE LINEUP, NOV. 10:
Schwartz - McCann - Eberle
Johansson - Geekie - Donskoi
Tanev - Wennberg - Jarnkrok
Donato - Sheahan - Blackwell
Giordano - Oleksiak
Soucy - Dunn
Lauzon - Larsson
Fleury – Borgen