Where Jared McCann called home for three seasons is now a scene where the Seattle Kraken will attempt to be rude guests.
The former Pittsburgh Penguin, traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs then quickly flipped to the Kraken in the expansion draft last summer, will visit the place he called home ice, PPG Paints Arena, for the first time this season at 4pm PT on Thursday (950 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
Bursting ahead to the team and goal scoring lead as a potential restricted free agent, McCann has continued to upgrade his numbers: 25 points in 37 games, and 16 goals – three off his career high.
McCann’s two-man advantage goal on Tuesday against the Nashville Predators broke a personal six-game goal drought and Kraken four-game power play goal drought.
“We can be a lot better,” said McCann. “We feel we’ve gotten back to passing the puck a little too much and not shooting. We need to focus on getting pucks to the net and getting traffic. They’re going to go in for us.”
Philipp Grubauer, 3-1 in his last four starts, will get the start for the Kraken in net with Chris Driedger, who entered COVID-19 protocol 11 days ago, returning to the bench to back up Grubauer.
"Through the homestand, ‘Grubie’ was probably our best player," said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. "It's about making the routine saves. That's part of it. But the timely saves he gave us during that homestand were critical.”
Grubauer’s victories during the homestand came in a rallying effort over the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, and a consensus Stanley Cup contender in the Florida Panthers.
Tristan Jarry will start for Pittsburgh, who have won six straight, 17 of 19 games, and have boomed to second place in the Metropolitan Division, 27-10-5 and just a point behind the first place New York Rangers.
Pittsburgh, who hasn’t lost on home ice since Nov. 27 against Montreal (8-0-0), is led by All-Star Jake Guentzel’s 21 goals and 40 points. Evgeni Malkin, who didn’t play in December at Seattle while recovering from off-season knee surgery, has returned to spell future Hall-of-Famer Sidney Crosby with nine points in his first eight games.
"This team feeds off momentum in this building,” said Hakstol. “Typically Pittsburgh starts well in this building and they feed off momentum they generate offensively in this building. We have to be ready to meet that head on."
The Kraken will aim for a two-game season series split, with Hakstol confirming the same lineup on Tuesday against Nashville will dress tonight.
PROJECTED KRAKEN LINEUP: