Gustav Olofsson had endured a long road back.
The 27-year old defenseman, halted with any staying power in the last three years, will return for his first NHL game in three years and make his Seattle Kraken (8-5-1) debut tonight (5pm PT, 93.3 KJR-FM / Kraken Audio Network) at Climate Pledge Arena against the Winnipeg Jets.
“Feels kind of surreal,” said Olofsson. “It’s been a lot of hard work, perseverance and believing int it. It hasn’t sunk in yet I’ll be playing, but it feels good.”
Olofsson last played in an NHL game in December during the 2019-20 season, when he was sent to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Laval and never saw game action again before his time ran out at the end of the 2020-21 pandemic shortened season. The Kraken signed him to a two-way deal last season, though he was used solely in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers en route to a 41-game season that was hampered by injuries.
The Kraken extended him by a year last June and has made his way back as a call-up to play on the left side with Will Borgen. He knows one key element for success.
“Just communication,” said Olofsson.
“I’ve known (Borgen) a year or two, being with the Kraken in training camp. You play your left side, you play your right side, and talk your way through it.”
The Kraken will battle the Jets in the first of three meetings, a clash between two teams who missed the playoffs but have enjoyed surging starts. The Kraken have gone 5-2 in the last seven games, while Winnipeg lost at Calgary, 3-2 last evening to disrupt a 7-0-1 run.
“We go back to work,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We came out on the wrong end of it the other night, there’s things we want to do better and areas we want to be better in. Everyone will focus on the offensive side. We’ve got a couple areas of focus we could be more efficient in to generate more, for sure.”
“Clear the deck, go back to work. We’re playing good hockey.”
Martin Jones will start in net, with the Kraken debuting their new ice blue-based reverse retro jerseys this evening – a nod to the Seattle Ironmen of the defunct Pacific Coast Hockey League.
“I think they’re sweet,” said forward Morgan Geekie. “I think it’s a pretty underrated color scheme, I like it a lot. I don’t think it gets enough credit.”
Geekie is a part of a stingy Kraken penalty kill that has turned the corner over the last two weeks, going 16-of-16 in their most recent chances.
Winnipeg is led by defenseman Josh Morrissey’s 14 points in 13 games, while Pierre-Luc Dubois, who scored his seventh goal of the season last night, has a goal in four straight games.
KRAKEN PROJECTED LINEUP, VS WINNIPEG: 11/13