The return of Jared McCann isn’t ready for prime time yet, but has taken a significant step forward with progress.
On Saturday, the leading goal scorer for the Seattle Kraken this year, burying 40 this year, returned to the ice in a red colored non-contact jersey and skated with the team on ice for the first time since being knocked out of game four of the opening round on a late hit by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, a significant turning point with Makar suspended for game five in a seven-game upset by the Kraken.
McCann, seen in a tinted visor, was not available to speak to the media following at 25-minute optional skate, the first on ice session for the Kraken in Seattle since the morning of game six against the Avalanche, eight days ago. Head coach Dave Hakstol said he “didn’t believe” McCann will be ready to return on Sunday night in game three against the Stars at 6:30pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) but said the top line Kraken forward’s progress was a “real step” and he wouldn’t rush McCann’s return, dependent on McCann’s ability to produce“ at a high level.”
“Good to see him in the jersey out there with others today,” said Hakstol, speaking for the first time since his nomination for the league’s Jack Adams Award.
“We need to make sure his health is where it needs to be, then he’s ready to get into the lineup. It’s a step by step process.”
Hakstol declined to specify the nature of McCann’s injury, officially termed “undisclosed” and requiring McCann to proceed through several checkpoints of protocol clearance before returning.
Seen on the ice for early work, followed by 45 minutes continuously through the optional skate period, while taking deflection drills in the crease, McCann’s journey being game ready is still perhaps at least two games away, if not longer. In the meantime, the void filled by rookie Tye Kartye has delivered an eye-opening revelation. The 20-year old undrafted forward busted onto the scene this year at the pro level and earned the American Hockey League’s top rookie honors with 28 goals for the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
Kartye, scoring two goals in his first five games, all in the playoffs, also has delivered 12 hits over the last two combined Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“He’s got to continue to raise that level as the stakes continue to get higher and higher,” said Hakstol. “But he’s handled himself well, off the ice and on the ice.”
“He can play with detail. That’s a real important especially in this time of year.”
Nearly half of the Kraken postseason roster opted for rest on Saturday, with only 12 skaters reporting to the ice for drills along with all three goaltenders, Philipp Grubauer, Martin Jones, and Chris Driedger.
Grubauer was off the ice within 15 minutes, all part of day where Hakstol said the Kraken are in critical load management territory.
“I saw a little bit of fatigue in our guys and that’s why we went optional again today,” said Hakstol, referencing the end of game two at Dallas to conclude a busy stretch of nine playoff games in 17 days.
“It gives everybody the ability to recover to what suits them best over two days. When we get back at it tomorrow, that energy should be back and now on each of us, individually and collectively, to raise that level and bring that in game three.”