The Seattle Kraken have learned enough to be in tight games, to win big ones, and to fashion a winning streak.
They also know a win at this point means large implications for the next road trip coming up. Because after they are done with the San Jose Sharks in a 7pm PT (93.3. KJR / Kraken Audio Network), they have a date with the division leading Vegas Golden Knights.
“Success at home is important,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s one more opportunity before we get on the road for the next few. Every game is critical. But every game at home is even more important.”
Success at home wasn’t a sure thing before this season-long six-game homestand, which will solidify a smashing success with a win and a potential 4-1-1 home record. It was a far cry from the first three games on home ice, where the Kraken came up empty and were outscored 10-3 in losses to Vegas and Carolina.
Ever since then, they have tacked on wins of all shapes and sizes: from convincing blowouts of Buffalo, to statement making wins against the Penguins, and overtime resiliency – twice – in victories over the Kings and Rangers.
For five of the last six games, the Kraken have sharpened iron in close games, decided by just one goal.
“I think we’ve been playing top teams and we’ve been finding ways to win,” Andre Burakovsky said, who comes in with a six-game point streak against the Sharks.
“First of all, it’s not easy winning a game in this league. You have to bring the best out of each guy. Lately we’ve been more consistent, and we’ve been ready from the start at puck drop.”
The first goal, as routine, could be tell-tale in keeping a Sharks team at bay who have won four of six games, and forced a point in seven of their last ten games.
Martin Jones, a former Shark, will face San Jose for the fifth time in his career with the start in net tonight and comes off NHL third star of the week honors. Kaapo Kahkonen will be in net for the Sharks, coming off a 37-save effort in a win on Monday over Ottawa.
They wait for the return of Jamie Oleksiak, activated off injured reserve on Wednesday but questionable to return per Hakstol, and will have their hands full in two places: the power play (up against the top ranked penalty kill in the Sharks) and Erik Karlsson, rejuvenating his career at age 32 by leading all NHL defensemen with 29 points in 21 games.
He is on pace to shatter the 100-point mark and earn the most points by a defenseman for one season in 31 years, accomplished in the last heights by Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers in 1991-92.
“He’s a special guy who wants to join the rush,” said Burakovsky. “Get a bump on him, get a hard backcheck on him, and obviously he’s pretty dangerous on the blueline, walking the line. Get a stick on puck and stay close to him.”
In turn, the Sharks, like many teams, don’t see the Kraken as a minimal threat.
“I think everything got skewed from Vegas,” Sharks head coach David Quinn said with respects to last season’s expansion expectations. “Everybody always compared them to Vegas. I thought it was very unfair to them.”
“They’re a good team. I’m not surprised with the success they’re having, with the players they have, the coaching staff they have, the management they have, this organization has done a great job setting itself up to be successful.”
The Kraken and Sharks will meet head-to-head three times this year, with tonight set as the only matchup in Seattle for the regular season.
KRAKEN PROJECTED LINEUP, 11/23: