Goaltending coach Andrew Allen walked into the dressing room at Climate Pledge Arena on Sunday morning and soon enough, had to head over to Chris Driedger’s pads.
It wasn’t for random inspection.
Allen had one job: suit up in Driedger’s gear and take shots with Philipp Grubauer in a National Hockey League practice, a 25 minute session with nearly a full Kraken lineup less than 14 hours after they fell to the Los Angeles Kings, 3-1 on home ice.
The Kraken had no other choice for an immediate plan-B goaltender. Driedger, who battled through Saturday’s game with 19 saves, was placed in COVID-19 protocol minutes before practice which necessitated Allen to rush into goaltending duty for the morning session.
It then turned into a throwback Sunday for Allen, 45, last seen in competitive action when he hoisted the Kelly Cup with the Trenton Titans in 2005. Also taking shots practice during his previous previous post with the Buffalo Sabres, he suited up in parts of four seasons with Hershey, Utah, Binghamton and Providence in the American Hockey League, and five seasons in the ECHL.
“Well, ‘Alley’ looked pretty good out there, for a guy who hadn’t put the equipment on for a long time,” said head coach Dave Hakstol, offering a playful smirk when recalling a rare and unique Sunday. “I give him a lot of credit.”
Going from a coach in a tracksuit and transformed to a moonlighting player once again, the routine of preparation and socializing rushed back to his world, immersed fully once again in the dressing room routine which included light-hearted humor from Kraken teammates.
“It’s one of those things where you walk into the room and they do a double take, and they say ‘Alley, alright, let’s go’!” said Allen. “You give them energy coming off a disappointing loss on home ice last night. They were tapping me on the pads, and telling me I had good saves, even when I was getting scored on a lot.”
“It was good to give them a little extra jump in a tight situation, finding out just before practice this was going to happen.”
Allen drew more than curious onlookers in the dressing room as he fastened Driedger’s pads – complete with attached Velcro – a departure from the leather buckles that were routine of his goaltending gear from 20 years ago. He became a figure that breathed figurative fresh air into an environment that included excitement, energy, and anticipation.
He finished practice after bonus round work with Jordan Eberle in shootout drills, removed Driedger’s old mask, lowered to his knees, and caught his breath. It followed trial of fire where he took shots in the first half of every drill where he said he “felt okay,” and upon fatigue felt a slowed pace of mobility.
“I showed my age with my mobility toward the end,” said Allen. “It’s one of those things that needed to be done and don’t mind doing it whatsoever. I gave the guys everything I had, and the guys enjoyed it. That’s the most important thing.”
Allen also drew light hearted teasing from Hakstol.
“When I came off, he said ‘I looked down at one point, you looked tired’,” said Allen.
He then said Hakstol joked, “So I made sure the drill went just a little bit longer.”
With the Charlotte area enduring a snowy and icy winter storm, Hakstol said logistics and weather factored in a transaction today that keeps Joey Daccord in the AHL and confirmed Antoine Bibeau would be recalled directly to the Kraken from their ECHL affiliate, the Allen Americans.
Bibeau, who has appeared in four NHL games with Toronto and Colorado, is 6-2-1 with a .928 save percentage this season, covering ten games in Allen.
PRACTICE PREPARES FOR MONDAY
The Kraken blitzed through the Sunday session, squeezed in between Saturday’s loss and a lightning quick Monday afternoon turnaround, with modified line combinations that included Ryan Donato with Yanni Gourde and Calle Jarnkork, and Colin Blackwell shifting over with Riley Sheahan and Alexander True.
“We just went out and got a good skate in,” said Hakstol. “What you saw wasn’t necessarily indicative of what will be tomorrow.”
The Kraken will turn their attention to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday for a 2pm matinee face-off, who return after a 4-2 win over the Kraken on November 17 at Climate Pledge Arena. Back then, the Blackhawks were fully engulfed in chaos, still smarting after losses in 11 of their first 12 games (1-9-2) and replacing Jeremy Colliton with interim head coach Derek King.
Chicago will come into Seattle on a four-game win streak and since appointing King, are 14-9-3. Alex DeBrincat, the lone All-Star representative from the Blackhawks due to play in Las Vegas, leads the team with 23 goals.
Patrick Kane, a piece of the Blackhawks core with three Stanley Cup titles at age 33, leads with 34 points and 25 assists.
The Kraken, limited to four goals over the last three games, will aim for their first win since December 14.
“We have to pay attention to detail on the defensive side of the game, tighten up a little bit more, and on the other side generate a little more offense,” said Hakstol. “We didn’t generateenough, five on five. That’s something that will be a focus for us tomorrow.”
KRAKEN PRACTICE LINEUP, JAN. 16: