Returning to the ice for a quick practice after a 5-2 victory on Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres, the Seattle Kraken delivered a refreshed approach: loose, confident, and assured.
It’s quite the change of pace from the last few weeks, a seemingly never-ending cycle of tension and gripping-the-sticks tight approach that communicated determination, but completely laced with strain.
It’s funny how winning cures a lot of that.
Morgan Geekie broke out of a nine-game goal scoring drought and was cracking jokes about fast food pizza and Call of Duty (reporter’s note: this guy still has a vintage Nintendo, I’ll take his word for it).
(The backstory: according to Sara Civian of The Athletic, Geekie once took a dare from a Carolina Hurricanes teammate to weave in a “you can’t out-pizza the hut” into a news conference. The follow up was today, and it turned into a hilarious exchange about barbeque chicken pizza, his gold card, and removing any doubt about being a pitchman.)
Marcus Johansson delivered direct updates on his progress, inching closer to his return from injured reserve.
Before the team departed in the afternoon for the visit with the Coyotes, head coach Dave Hakstol administered a practice starting with small area games, flowing through line rushes, and outnumbered attack drills – all finishing with an inaudible message from outside the glass to the team at center ice, but visually resonant with the complete team huddle that responded with a confident stick tap.
Schwartz - Wennberg - Eberle
Tanev - Gourde - Jarnkrok
Donato – Geekie - Donskoi
McCormick – Sheahan – Bastian
Giordano - Oleksiak
Dunn - Fleury
Lauzon - Larsson
Soucy - Borgen
-Marcus Johansson and Colin Blackwell returned again to the ice and continued to skate in the main practice group with primary colored jerseys, but both outside of the normal rotation of line combinations. Blackwell’s progress, a long journey, has continued since the first day of training camp while Johansson has been on the shelf with a lower body ailment since playing opening night, nearly a month ago, Oct. 12 at Vegas.
-Hakstol suggested medical progress and communication with strength and conditioning cleared the path for Blackwell and Johansson to get back with the main group today, though with a short 50 minute practice, he was unable to watch closely for every stride.
-Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz continued to skate together in practice, carrying over from four shifts together in Edmonton and into Thursday with Buffalo. Hakstol said there “was a little bit of magic there” with Alexander Wennberg, skating together for a little under four minutes while generating two scoring opportunities.
-Hakstol referenced the goal by Geekie to put the Kraken up 1-0 as an important goal, like a power play goal (though it wasn’t criteria to reach the scoresheet because play was back to even strength), because the residue of rhythm from a power play and the incomplete installation of Buffalo’s fifth skater to make an impact defensively. The Kraken finished that power play off the Jamie Oleksiak fight with John Hayden, galvanized after Hayden took exception to Oleksiak’s check with Hayden receiving an extra roughing penalty.
-Geekie was set up with a cross-ice pass from Alexander Wennberg, that threaded an entire Buffalo penalty kill and fed the wheelhouse of Morgan Geekie, who rifled a one-timer past Dustin Tokarski. Geekie said below he’s seen this movie before with Wennberg.
-We’ll have an exclusive chat with Oleksiak on Saturday’s broadcast from Arizona, referencing the bout with Hayden, the energy that flowed into Climate Pledge Arena after that, and a hilarious look into his relationship with sister, Penny, a seven-time Canadian Olympic medalist as a competitive swimmer. They don’t talk shop. But she’s heavily invested as Jamie’s “go to” interior decorator, right down to installing a new hot tub in his residence.
Morgan Geekie’s conversation during open media availability:
Question: Before we get into your goal, have you finally out-pizza’ed the hut?
Geekie: No, never. You can’t. You can’t. You can ask them, but you can’t.
Question: So what’s this obsession with pizza about?
Geekie: They make a good barbeque chicken.
Question: So if someone came to you and said we’d like for you to be a pitchman---
Geekie: I am a pitchman. (laughter in room)
Geekie: I can show you my gold card. It’s got my name on it. I promise. I don’t carry it anymore. I got a new wallet. I have it. I’ll send you a picture.
Geekie on his power play goal:
“I think I had a few chances earlier I think I should have scored on, so it was nice to get it out of way. We got off to a good start and specialty teams did a good job that game.”
Geekie on his confidence:
“The coaches did a good job pushing me along – one was bound to go in – I was just trying to go out there and put good shots on net and if I don’t score, someone’s going to be there, and find something around the net.”
Geekie on the last time he’s seen a pass (from his goal) that good from Alexander Wennberg:
“I said it earlier, I got one in preseason from him, so that was the last time, as hard, but he’s got great vision. I know he was looking over there (for me) and I was trying to be ready for it. We have a lot of good players on this team so it’s a good spot to be.”
Dave Hakstol on the power play influenced goal scored by Morgan Geekie
“We had a couple good looks previous to that. But for all purposes, that’s a power play goal. The power play ran out three or four seconds before but in reality, that power play extends another four to five seconds before they get a guy out of the box and they can reset. It was a power play look and a power play goal. It was nice to have them feel that success and see some results for a good result on that power play.
Marcus Johansson on returning to the group and his progress:
“That’s the biggest thing, you miss being a part of the group. I’ve skated for a few days for now, that’s fun, but being out with guys is way better. There’s nothing more frustrating (than missing time) –just happy to be out there, and it’s good to be getting closer."