MORNING SKATE: Grubauer, Donskoi return to see former Avalanche teammates

Seattle Kraken v Anaheim Ducks

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 15: Joonas Donskoi #72 of the Seattle Kraken looks on during the first period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on December 15, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

The Seattle Kraken have shaken off an eight-day layoff, focusing primarily on practice time to stay sharp in the middle of COVID-19 protocol and Canadian attendance-driven rescheduling. Their first chance to put it into winning practice is tonight, 6pm PT against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena.

Coverage opens at 5:30pm (950 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) with the Coors Light Pregame Show from 32 Bar & Grill, live at the Kraken Community Iceplex.

Former Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi and goaltender Philipp Grubauer will visit Denver for the first time since joining the Kraken this past summer: Donskoi via the expansion draft, and Grubauer via free agency.

Grubauer is expected to start in net for the Kraken, who are 0-4-1 in their last five games and searching for their first win since Dec. 14 at San Jose. Pavel Francouz, splitting time with Grubauer in net two years ago in Colorado, will start for the Avalanche.

Donskoi led the stretch at morning skate at Ball Arena to jump start the first game day the Kraken have since New Year's Day, getting through a full eight day layoff due to COVID-19 protocol and Canadian attendance restrictions, leading to the rescheduling of three games previously on the schedule last week.

Donskoi is tied for the Kraken lead with 14 assists but is still in search of his first goal of the season, with 33 games under his belt.

"Every guy is excited to be back," said defenseman Jeremy Lauzon. "For Donskoi it's always special to come back to the team he played for, before being drafted to Seattle. It's a huge game for him, but it's a huge game for our team and we're going to try to play our best hockey here and give him a win against his old team."

Lauzon exited COVID-19 protocol at practice on Sunday and said he was asymptomatic.

"I felt completely fine, the whole process," said Lauzon. "Just to get more reps - the more reps I get, the better I feel. I did more yesterday after practice. When I came back to skate I was in still in pretty good shape. I didn't feel I missed a lot of step out there."

Donskoi said the return to Colorado will be special, surrounding a cycle of energy involving a return to play, but also memories for his family.

"It's nice to be back," said Donskoi. "We got married here, had our first baby, and a lot of good memories."

"It almost felt like we had another training camp. It's just fun to be back to playing again. Every guy's excited and you can feel it in that locker room so it'll be fun to get back to game action."

Head coach Dave Hakstol confirmed the Kraken will have forward Alex Wennberg available to play tonight, and will be a game time decision as far as being penciled into the lineup. Wennberg was placed in COVID-19 protocol on Jan. 3 and is also tied with Donskoi's leading mark with 14 assists in 33 games.

Colorado has won four straight games, scoring 20 goals in that span. But they will likely be without captain Gabriel Landeskog, entering COVID-19 protocol. He previously had nine points in the last five games and was named the NHL's First Star of the Week.

Still, the Avalanche boast the league's top offense with weapons such as forward Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Cale Makar, firing at 4.3 goals per game while scoring 20 goals over a 4-0 run since returning from the holiday break. Rallying from down 4-1 on Saturday, they beat Toronto in overtime, 5-4 on a game winning goal from Devon Toews.

Nazem Kadri, in his third season with the Avalanche, leads the team with 44 points in 28 games.

"His time with us has been consistently with us his whole career," said head coach Jared Bednar. "When he's willing to work and play that power forward style, his skill shines through."

Colorado, tied for third in the Central Division at 21-8-2 (44 points), is 13-2-1 on home ice.

Host Mike Benton provided more (above) to begin the day in the latest Kraken This Morning podcast.

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