The Seattle Kraken re-assigned John Hayden to the Coachella Valley Firebirds of the American Hockey League on Thursday.
The roster potentially clears the way for center Matty Beniers to return after he was knocked out of a Jan. 13 win at Columbus, in a game where he took a heavy hit against the left boards from Cole Sillinger.
In a potential twist of fate, the Kraken will host Columbus to complete their two-game season series on Jan. 28 at Climate Pledge Arena.
WHAT WE KNOW:
- Hayden was called up amidst a rash of injuries the Kraken endured over the last two weeks and suited up in pair of games.
- Hayden was a healthy scratch on Wednesday, in a 6-2 victory for the Kraken over the Chicago Blackhawks.
- Beniers, who anchors the Kraken top line, is enduring a rough sophomore season in production with six goals and 19 points in 42 games, far off the pace of his 24-goal, 57-point campaign last season that captured the league’s Calder Trophy.
- Beniers has missed the last five games with an upper body ailment and has been officially listed as day-to-day even with placement on injured reserve.
ANALYSIS FROM 93.3 KJR-FM:
While the Hayden move is a routine transaction that creates minimal ripple of movement on the roster, the signs are pointing to Beniers returning as soon as Friday when the Kraken host the St. Louis Blues, a potentially big matchup in the implications for a playoff spot with both teams separated by a point in the Western Conference, and the Kraken sitting behind the Blues and two points back of the Nashville Predators, who hold the final wild card spot.
Beniers was visible at practice on Thursday at Kraken Community Iceplex wearing routine practice colors, and out of a red “non-contact” jersey for the second straight day while slowly integrating into more of a typical practice routine and drills with linemates Brandon Tanev and Tye Kartye.
Add to that: the Kraken also got Yanni Gourde back as a fully activated player with a two-game suspension for a high hit on Mattias Ekholm in the rear-view mirror.
"You want to be as healthy as you can, as often as you can,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “That hasn’t been the case over the past 10 or 12 days for us. We will be a lot closer tomorrow.”
At one point, Andre Burakovsky and Vince Dunn were also missing with injuries. Burakovsky returned last Thursday against Edmonton and Dunn, the team leader in scoring for much of the season, made his return to the lineup on Wednesday with an assist against the Blackhawks.
With Beniers potentially back in the lineup, sophomore season drought or not, the Kraken are deeper with his raw offensive ability, versatility on special teams, and gradual growth in the face-off circle. It is possible upon his return that he immediately takes over the top line center role again, where he has been used all season, and most recently with Tomas Tatar and Jordan Eberle as his wingers.
It is also possible Beniers’ look in practice, with Brandon Tanev and Tye Kartye as wingers, are a new formula being tested by Hakstol considering the production Jared McCann, used typically at the left wing, has helped generate.
For the time being, McCann has filled in nicely at center, returning to a position of experience without skipping a beat. He has scored a goal in three of the last four games, totaling six points in the last five games around Beniers’ absence.
Hayden, a physical 28-year-old forward at 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, has spent most of his last two seasons in the minor leagues and has 10 points in 33 games this season with Coachella Valley.