Morning Skate: Johansson will play, Driedger starts in Vegas

Seattle Kraken v Edmonton Oilers

Photo: Getty Images

With any possible mental residue of a 5-4 defeat to the Arizona Coyotes worked out of their system following a day off on Sunday and a practice day on Monday, the Seattle Kraken prepare for the next challenge as reinforcements are on the way, tonight in the second time they’ll face the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena (7pm).

After missing nearly a month due to a lower body ailment, forward Marcus Johansson’s progress finally has hit the finish line to suit up in game action again, while after a week of reps on ice and holding the door on the bench for Philipp Grubauer, goaltender Chris Driedger – recovering from a knee injury suffered Oct. 18 at Philadelphia –is officially good to go and will make his first regular season start with the Kraken, giving Grubauer a presumed night off for only the third time this season.

“I don’t know if you just get rid of Saturday night’s game,” said Hakstol. “It should stick with you a little bit, but that being said – you clear the deck and have an opportunity to respond tonight. Good practice yesterday, good sharpness this morning, and ready to go tonight.”

“We need to be better,” said center Yanni Gourde. “I think it’s very important to show that tonight, too. We made some adjustments and I think we’re ready to go.”

Those adjustments will be front and center in the mission to lift teammates across the room.

“Manage the game better,” said Gourde. “Take charge is a big one I think, especially as leaders. (Last game) was not a great game for us. But we need to take charge in those situations and get away with points.”

The Kraken last met the Golden Knights (has it already been a month?) Oct. 12 in the historic, inaugural game in franchise history that nearly led biting off a piece of history. In the previous 91 games, the Golden Knights never lost a game when leading by three goals or more.

The Kraken put them on the ropes, overcoming an overwhelming first ten minutes of their “welcome to the NHL” moment by going down 2-0 and then eventually 3-0 in the second period, to rally back for a 3-3 tie before a controversial Chandler Stephenson goal, a game winner that bounced off his skate and was upheld after a dispute for a kicking motion.

Since then, the Kraken have bit off seven road games, a 3-2 record on home ice, a grand opening of their new home ice, their former leading scorer landing in COVID-19 protocol (not to mention others in what was a chaotic first few days in Kraken history), and the first “stinging” loss after squandering a third period lead and extra attacker tying goal.

Not to mention a power play that is ferociously hungry for a goal, on a seven-game famine (0-for-23).

“I look at the execution,” said Hakstol. “That’s where the focus needs to be – overall execution, what we’re doing, what the plan is, and executing power play after power play. We had good looks over last couple games other than Arizona game. We have to get back to it and get focused on details without getting too complicated. Keep it simple and be hungry.”

How’s the next power play goal probably going to come?

“We need to shoot the puck more often,” said Gourde. “We need to create traffic. It’s not probably going to be a nice goal. It’s probably going to be an ugly goal.”

Seattle Kraken v Vegas Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 12: Mark Giordano #5 of the Seattle Kraken warms up in front of member of the Golden Belles performing before the Kraken's inaugural regular-season game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on October 12, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Golden Knights defeated the Kraken 4-3. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images


-Johansson skated yesterday in practice on left wing, in Ryan Donato’s spot, with linemates Morgan Geekie and Joonas Donskoi. We’ll monitor any changes heading into tonight, but it’s highly likelyhe stays put based on this morning’s line rushes (see below).

-Hakstol confirmed no change in Donato’s status after leaving Saturday’s game with an upper body ailment and only over three minutes of ice time.

-Driedger has never faced the Golden Knights before, going 6-2-1 over the last nine games of regular season play last year before getting into three Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Florida Panthers.

-Jared McCann (COVID-19 protocol) has been absent since Oct. 31, when he was pulled before a home game against the New York Rangers. Though his progress is not publicly available, today is the 10th day he has missed action. Based on clearance procedures, he is eligible to return as early as tomorrow.

-Vegas has become a very bruised team since Oct. 12: a total of four players have made their NHL debut with the Golden Knights in the outcome of a rash of injuries, and the fifth tonight will be center Paul Cotter, previously with two goals in eight games with the Henderson Silver Knights. With a quick transit from the AHL facility to T-Mobile Arena, it gave him time to contact family, who will be in the house.

-On Cotter: “he plays fast, he plays straight ahead, he’s a strong kid, and he’s not afraid to make plays,” said Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer.

-Of those injuries? No Jack Eichel (acquired in last week’s blockbuster trade with Buffalo but will miss 3-4 months with neck surgery), no Mark Stone (though resume skating this morning, and he’s out), no Max Pacioretty, no William Karlsson, no Zach Whitecloud, no Nolan Patrick.

Broadcast notes:
·6:30pm for the Coors Light Pre-Game Show as we’ll walk you through the 30 minutes of all you need to know, before Everett Fitzhugh and Dave Tomlinson take you for the call starting at 7:00pm.
·1st intermission guest: “Meet The Kraken” with Joonas Donskoi, joined by 950 KJR’s Ian Furness

·2nd intermission: with local TV taking the night off for ESPN+ national coverage, J.T. Brown will jump in the chair with me to discuss more events unfolding from tonight.

Schwartz - Wennberg - Eberle
Johansson - Geekie - Donskoi
Tanev - Gourde - Jarnkrok
McCormick - Sheahan - Bastian

Oleksiak - Giordano
Soucy - Dunn
Larsson - Lauzon

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