Practice notebook: optional skate, a challenge to dig deeper, empty netters

Winnipeg Jets v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 13: Morgan Geekie #67 of the Seattle Kraken reacts during the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at Climate Pledge Arena on November 13, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

Kraken Community Iceplex was the scene for a rare 30 minute on ice session with the Seattle Kraken hitting a pause in between home games, a scenario to likely to play out with less frequency over the next month. 

The high volume in game scheduling has a demanding stretch: 17 games in 31 days. 

There was no Yanni Gourde, no Jaden Schwartz, no Vince Dunn on the ice – but no worries on Thursday. Head coach Dave Hakstol informed the media after practice that the session was an optional skate, an indication of a rest day for the aforementioned trio. 

“Good to get a sweat in and get out of the house and do something,” said forward Morgan Geekie. 

“We’re at the point of that year where practices are obsolete. It’s just morning skates and games. Just trying to stay in that groove and keep going for the rest of the season.” 

No line rushes were taken while much of the half hour sweat was applied to detail with the transition game, pace, and a pledge of deeper fine tuning on Friday morning ahead of the 7pm matchup with the Edmonton Oilers. 

Hakstol was quick to point out that the Kraken, just 3-6-1 in the last ten games, have “good” culture. But they may be at a fork in the road. There are 49 games remaining in the regular season, but the gap separating playoff teams and chasers has become razor thin. 

“We have to make that decision as a hockey team whether we’re satisfied with the level of play that we’ve had that’s us to this point, or whether we’re willing to make that decision to push us next level,” said Hakstol. “Not just through the next two home games or through the next road trip, but as we move through the remainder of the season.” 

Colorado took Los Angeles to a shootout on Thursday night, losing 5-4, but also gained a point while pushing the Kraken down to the final wild card spot, where they are tied with Edmonton (who also comes into town on Friday night). 

“Staying status quo will not bring enough success over the next 49 games,” said Hakstol. “That’s the big thing. You get to this time of year, that decision has to be made to continue pushing forward, to elevate.” 

It’s progress of where the Kraken are at now, put into perspective of where they were a calendar year ago, already well out of the playoff picture and reeling with the loss of sparkplug forward Brandon Tanev to a season-ending knee injury. 

Geekie pointed out to the ability of responding to in-game challenges, turning lost causes into “winnable” games. 

“We’ve made a lot of progress in how we respond,” said Geekie. “(Friday) night is going to be a big test to that ability and continue to grow as a team.” 


- Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones started the morning on ice with goaltending coach Steve Briere in pre-skate drills, including a fun 200-foot empty net competition which saw both goaltenders park at least one goal (including one shown by Grubauer). Will they try it in a game where the Kraken are staring at an opposing empty net? There are 49 games still to make it happen this season, and important to note that an empty netter would seal redemption for Martin Jones, who had an attempt backfire in San Jose five years ago when Mark Scheifele scored for Winnipeg. Jones was asked after that game if he’s ever scored a goal as a goaltender, replying, “no, that’s the first time I’ve tried, and probably the last, too.” We’ll see if it’s the last. 

- Chris Driedger, still at least a month away from returning to play while recovering from offseason knee surgery, is showing progress by returning to the ice in a workout on early Thursday afternoon and provided a glimpse of his future signature mask with magnificent tributes to Seattle’s iconic alternative rock culture in a tweet also tagging mask artist David Gunnarsson. Driedger wore the mask in his individual workout, which includes detailed visuals of Eddie Vedder, longtime lead vocalist of Pearl Jam, and the late Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. Each side includes a silhouette of the city’s skyline and Space Needle, along with a centralized illustrated guitar neck that runs vertical, top to bottom of the mask. The back includes inspirational phrases such as “pressure is a privilege,” along with subtle drop ins of a meditating Rafiki from the Disney animated film “The Lion King,” and Grogu from “The Mandalorian.” Check it out here

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