For a team that head coach Dave Hakstol said would be feasting on turkey during a Thanksgiving Day trip into Las Vegas, they hope Oliver Bjorkstrand has only begun to feast.
He went 17 straight games without a goal, puzzling because of his consistent involvement with generating scoring chances and from his 28-goal eruption last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, before the summer trade to Seattle.
On Friday morning, he confirmed that he changed his stick. He potted goal number two on Wednesday night. It put the Kraken in the lead for good. They won 8-5 over San Jose.
“When you’re not scoring sometimes you find small, little ways to help you out a bit,” Bjorkstrand said. “Sometimes a different stick can give you a different feel.”
He only got one more of its kind in the arsenal.
“I’ll play with it,” said Bjorkstrand. “It’s hot right now.”
Friday night would be a good time for Bjorkstrand to tap back into that stick, referring to it as a “different bottle of power.” The Kraken have never beaten the Vegas Golden Knights, 0-5 with matchup number six coming tonight in a big Pacific Division showdown at T-Mobile Arena in an early 5pm PT start time (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
At the Thanksgiving pause, the game matches two of the hotter teams in the NHL. The Kraken, 8-1-1 in the last ten games, enter today with sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division. Vegas is in the lead, coming out of their best start in franchise history, and 7-2-1 in the last ten games.
It’ll feature power versus power: the eighth ranked Kraken offense who can slug with the best of them (3.4 goals per game), against Vegas’ stingy defense, third at 2.4 goals per game under new head coach Bruce Cassidy – though both clubs are top 12 in the league for both categories.
Hakstol was first to point out the plan doesn’t include another floodgate-opening 8-5 win like two nights ago.
“Those games happen,” Hakstol said. “That’s not going to be our formula on a regular basis, winning hockey games. We’ve got to tighten some things up in our play without the puck – from what we’re doing defensively as a group of five, to line changes, to executing with the puck.”
Goaltender Martin Jones, spectacular for the last month at 8-2-1 in the last 11 games, gets a breather. Philipp Grubauer, turning 31 years old on Friday, starts in net for the first time since recovering from a lower body injury and has a .924 save percentage in his career against Vegas.
The Golden Knights are led by a healthy Jack Eichel, with 11 goals and 26 points this season. They defeated the Kraken, 5-2 in Seattle’s home opener on Oct. 15.
KRAKEN PROJECTED LINEUP, 11/25: