The clean slate of a Friday morning brought a new opportunity for success.
Yet, a challenge remained to take advantage of it, all wrapped around the question of the mood of the Kraken, looking to bounce back from a loss against the Arizona Coyotes in preparation for the host Anaheim Ducks.
“Tonight will tell that story,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “In terms of competitiveness, overall sharpness and execution, we weren’t good the other night. We all know that.”
“We need to get back to ourselves tonight.”
The Kraken believe they found themselves in a four-game, snow-blustery road trip through Pittsburgh, Boston, and two stops in New York, winning tight games or going down to the wire, tied in the third period in other losses. If the search for the redemption becomes complete, they will avoid a three-game season sweep of the Ducks, who play in their first game since Jan. 31 tonight at Honda Center at 7pm (950 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
The Kraken and Ducks last met on Dec. 15 in Anaheim, a 4-1 Kraken loss.
Hakstol confirmed Chris Driedger will start in net, making his first appearance since a 3-2 loss with 23 saves to the Bruins on Feb. 1. Though battling through a stretch of five losses in the last six appearances, Driedger is looking to connect again with overall effectiveness on the road, where he has a .912 save percentage.
Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, last seen in a Jan. 17 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks before missing nine straight games due to illness and a lower body injury, is expected to return to the lineup tonight. The rest of the combos and pairings are still unclear heading into the afternoon.
“We’ve got a couple of injury situations to deal with,” said Hakstol. “There could be a shift to our lineup, but I won’t know yet for another hour or so.”
Austin Czarnik, claimed off waivers on Tuesday, is a possibility for his Kraken debut tonight, declared as “available” by Hakstol and continuing to integrate with on-ice structure and logistics after his first day of practice on Thursday.
The Ducks, owning a five point lead over Dallas for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, are four points off first place in the Pacific Division under head coach Dallas Eakins, losing to the Red Wings last time out on Jan. 31 in a 2-1 defeat but previously winning four of the last five games.
Troy Terry leads the Ducks with 41 points and 25 goals. Trevor Zegras, developing his brand as a young star in the making with two highlight reel goals and a blindfolded “Dodgeball” tribute shootout goal at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, is second on the Ducks with 32 points and 12 goals.
That pace has him in the Calder Trophy hunt, tied in scoring among rookies with Anton Lundell of Florida.
Still amidst success the Ducks have enjoyed under a relatively youthful team, Eakins said they have a challenge to discover their game again.
“We’ve got to bring our battle level back up,” said Eakins. “We’ve got to get better on faceoffs. Our overall A-game is jamming teams up through the neutral zone. Our transition is fast, and we’re direct to the net. It’s as simple as that.”