Morning Skate: Giordano/Jarnkrok updates, Grubauer starts vs. Winnipeg

Minnesota Wild v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 28: Philipp Grubauer #31 and Mark Giordano #5 of the Seattle Kraken celebrate their 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on October 28, 2021 at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

MORNING SKATE PODCAST: We’re joined by Kraken radio analyst Dave Tomlinson and Jets television voice Dennis Beyak, with local experience previously with the Seattle Thunderbirds, to explain more on Thursday night’s game.

Looking to make Monday an outlier, the Seattle Kraken, trending upward before a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins with five wins in seven games (5-1-1), will take aim at the visiting Winnipeg Jets in the first ever meeting tonight, 7:00pm (6:30pm, Kraken Audio Network) at Climate Pledge Arena.

The Kraken maneuvered through two intense days of practice, followed up with a Thursday optional morning skate in preparation to flush a 6-1 defeat out of their system, boosted potentially with reinforcements.

Kraken captain Mark Giordano, off COVID-19 protocol, is back on the Kraken active roster while forward Calle Jarnkrok, a decision Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said will be made “later this afternoon” if he will play, is looking to jump back into the lineup for the first time since Nov. 24 before heading to injured reserve with an undisclosed ailment.

“He had a good practice yesterday,” said Hakstol.

Both Giordano and Jarnkrok have returned to the Kraken active roster as of Thursday afternoon, combining for elements of a veteran presence that left a void in their absence last month, but were filled almost seamlessly by others as the Kraken took down teams such as Washington, Carolina, Florida, and Edmonton.

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer will start tonight looking to rebound from Monday’s results that had him depart in the first 5:07 of the game, allowing three goals on four shots. Yet, he was good enough (29 saves) to beat an Edmonton team loaded with firepower, 4-3 the game before, helped get the Kraken to overtime at the end of a road trip against Detroit on Dec. 1, and was arguably the star shining the brightest with 35 saves in a win against a ferocious Carolina squad on Nov. 24.

Matching up in net will be Connor Hellebuyck, 9-7-4 in 20 games with a middle-of-the-pack .914 save percentage but owning near inside-track position as one of the top goaltenders in the world as a two-time NHL All-Star, and winner of the league’s top goaltending award (Vezina Trophy) in 2020 with a league leading six shutouts.

Hellebuyck and the Jets, who previously won three of four games, lost on Tuesday to Carolina 4-2 and have mustered only three wins in ten games (3-6-1). Leading scorer Kyle Connor has 79 goals at even strength since the 2018-19 season: entering Tuesday at fifth most in the NHL (only Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl are better).

Local flavor note: defenseman Brendan Dillon is back in the same building that once housed his WHL team, the Thunderbirds, and even him for one-plus season. The veteran approaching 700 career NHL games played 71 games in Climate Pledge Arena, long before the renovation, as a Thunderbirds rookie in 2007-08. They moved next season into their current digs, accesso ShoWare Center, where Dillon finished his WHL career - as an undrafted WHL and NHL defenseman - before moving onto the Dallas Stars system where he signed as a free agent.

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