A new page has turned to 2022, and the Seattle Kraken hope that a new year brings new results.
Their first step in that direction is a fresh, out-of-the-box, jump-into-the-deep-end battle against a scorching hot Vancouver Canucks squad, who have experienced a jolt since the appointment of head coach Bruce Boudreau in early December.
The Kraken, starting at 7:00pm (KJR / Kraken Audio Network) will try to become the first team to hand the Canucks a loss in regulation since Boudreau took over for Travis Green. The Canucks are 7-0-1 since Boudreau was hired. The Kraken will also have defenseman Vince Dunn and Ryan Donato available to play, back from COVID-19 protocol.
Philipp Grubauer will start in net for the Kraken against counterpart Thatcher Demko, a rematch from Oct. 23 when the Canucks escaped with a 4-2 win in the inaugural Kraken home opener. Grubauer got the night off Thursday when the Kraken fell 6-4 to the Flames, and he returns after helping get the Kraken to overtime in a 3-2 defeat on Tuesday against Philadelphia.
“Third in four (games), we had a decision to make,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “Grubi’s our guy. He’s alluded to it – he hasn’t been at the level he’s liked to be throughout the early part of this year, but he’s a really good NHL goaltender. He’s going to continue working at his game until it’s where he’s needed it to be.
“We have a ton of confidence in him. He’s our guy.”
The Canucks (15-15-3, 7thin the Pacific Division) last played on Thursday, using a third period comeback to avoid losing to the Kings before the end of regulation, ultimately a 2-1 win for Los Angeles in a shootout.
They will also come in with a heavy emotional connection. Assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton was spotted by a female fan sitting behind the glass in Seattle on Oct. 23 and displayed a message via phone, to Hamilton as he left the bench for the dressing room, reading “the mole on the back of your neck is cancer.”
Hamilton acted later with team physicians who confirmed the mole was a malignant melanoma, and had it removed.
By the power of social media, he shared a note through theCanucks Twitter account searching for the identity of the fan, Nadia, who was connected with the Canucks only an hour later through a group Facebook post, “Ladies of the Kraken.”
“I’m thrilled, that’s the whole reason the letter was written,” said Hamilton. “I wanted her to know her persistence and everything she did was taken seriously.”
“She extended my life. She saved my life, she took me out of a slow fire.”
Nadia, who will be attending medical school, will be at Climate Pledge Arena tonight in the same building again as Hamilton.
“My mom wants her to know she loves her, I will thank her for being persistent,” said Hamilton. “She went over the top to get my attention.”
Hamilton who called the return this morning in Seattle “emotional,” said Climate Pledge Arena will now be a place he never forgets.
“By the time we got the stuff off the truck and got the locker room set up, I found out (Nadia) had been found. So, the two times I’ve been to Climate Pledge, it’s definitely on the top of my list of being my favorite arena now.”
What the Canucks bring in for this game - J.T. Miller leads the team with 35 points and is tied with Bo Horvat for the team lead with 11 goals. Horvat scored twice in the first meeting at Climate Pledge Arena, when the Canucks rallied from down 2-1 with three unanswered goals.
Boudreau suggested that was then, this is now.
“It’s a new game, everything’s new tonight,” said Boudreau. “They’re coming off a loss just like L.A. was coming off a loss. I think they’re going to be hungrier – and it’s going to be a home game just like for LA – and they’re going to have a couple guys coming off protocol.”