Jordan Eberle knows exactly what the meaning of Wednesday night’s game.
“It’s been the one you circle right away when you see the schedule,” said Eberle.
For the first time since the Kraken selected Eberle, exposed for the NHL Expansion Draft by the New York Islanders, he’ll make his return to the island and face his former teammates today, 4pm PT from UBS Arena (950 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
Just point to the past two seasons, where the Islanders went to the Eastern Conference Final – and bowed out in seven games to Tampa Bay last season – to find worth in the meaning.
“You’re going to gain some friendships,” said Eberle. “That’s the hardest part. We’ve been through a lot as a group.”
“You celebrate together and you cry together. It’s a special group to me.”
Eberle, headed this weekend to the NHL All-Star Game and second on the Kraken in goals (12) and points (25), will also look to snap out of a 20-game goal scoring drought and help snap back-to-back losses tonight in the finale before the NHL All-Star break, with the Kraken fresh off a 3-2 defeat to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
The Kraken, who did not skate this morning after late night travel back to New York, have made a case for hanging in there. In the first three games of the road trip, they have rallied and totaled four goals in each of the game’s third periods.
Coming back down 1-0 in Pittsburgh last Thursday, they won in overtime. Yanni Gourde rallied the Kraken down by a goal with a six-on-four, extra attacker situation to tie the game Sunday against the Rangers, before losing 3-2.
Last night, they were down 2-0 in the third period, rallied to tie the game in less than eight minutes in Boston, then fell 3-2.
In the Kraken way is an Islanders team, led by head coach Barry Trotz, traditionally valuing a lock-down approach defensively. The Islanders rank fifth best in the NHL with 2.6 goals per game allowed.
Down 1-0 early last night, they rallied for four unanswered goals to defeat Ottawa, 4-1.
“Once it was 1-0, our game sort of ramped up,” said Trotz. “I don’t think (Ottawa) had a shot or a chance for 17 minutes. I liked the response, number one. I thought in the second period we had things going. We were getting a lot of zone time.”
The Islanders, who lost 15 of their first 20 games while having to wait until Nov. 20 to open their new venue, are 17 points behind the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, held by Boston. Former Seattle Thunderbird forward Mat Barzal leads the Islanders with 18 assists and 28 points.