In possession of the Seattle Kraken, for the first time since the middle of December, is an element providing fuel for confidence:
With Monday's win and a bothersome 0-8-1 skid in the rear view mirror, the Kraken will aim for two straight wins for the first time since Nov. 27-29 when they knocked off Florida and Buffalo in three days.
Does a Monday win fuel Thursday confidence?
“One hundred percent it’s going to,” said Joonas Donskoi, facing his former Sharks team for the second time this season. “There was a big stretch where we weren’t able to get wins. So getting one is a boost of energy for the guys. We’re looking forward to building on that and getting more wins now.”
Coming off the 3-2 shootout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, who had won four in a row, the Kraken earned their first win in franchise history in two places – in the shootout, and also when trailing after two periods.
Ryan Donato’s early third period goal got the engine revved, but goaltender Philipp Grubauer, earning his first win since Dec. 3 against Edmonton, was strong with 25 saves and stopped both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the shootout.
No easy task against a pair of future Hall-of-Famers.
“Anytime you get that confidence as a team where you don’t like giving up chances, but you know in the back of your mind you can give up chances and your goaltender will be there, it goes a long way,” said captain Mark Giordano.
“We’re hoping you see guys squeezing it a bit less after a win the other night, and hopefully tonight hopefully we can break out and put a few in the back of the net.”
Grubauer will start against Sharks netminder Adin Hill.
Thursday’s morning skate was optional for the Kraken, with Morgan Geekie, missing the last four games with an upper body ailment, on ice and head coach Dave Hakstol confirming he’ll be evaluated for availability ahead of game time.
“He’s progressed really well,” said Hakstol.
Up in the air is defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, leading the Kraken with 105 hits and second in even strength time on ice (17:55 per game), missing Wednesday’s practice due to a non-COVID related illness.
San Jose, surpassing many pre-season predictions, is in the chase for a playoff berth at 21-17-2, fourth in the Pacific Division. Their last game was a historical one: a 6-1 victory on Monday against the Kings, when Timo Meier became the first player in Sharks history to score five goals in a game.
“We have to be harder and more physical,” said Sharks head coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s another key point for us, against this team, we’ve got to be able to get in and make them defend in their own zone.”
San Jose, under head coach Bob Boughner, has won four of their last six games and will play the next four of five games on the road – up against Washington, Florida, Carolina and Tampa Bay. Their lone home game in the mix is also against the Lightning, two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who also lead the NHL with 59 points (27-9-5).
Meier and Tomas Hertl, the latter scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are tied for the Sharks lead with 20 goals.
Meier leads San Jose with 45 points in 35 games.