Even though his time was minimal on the roster, Jared McCann picked a good day to help lead the stretch at the end of a morning skate session.
An audible “let’s go boys” from the (technically) former Maple Leaf (acquired in a trade from Pittsburgh on July 17, then selected in the expansion draft four days later) followed by stick taps to deliver the volume of expectation and preparation, has now set the Seattle Kraken off and running with a mission to take down another top flight team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, tonight at 6:00pm PT (950 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
The marquee matchup brings Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly to Seattle for the first time in their careers. Philipp Grubauer will start in net for the Kraken against Jack Campbell of Toronto.
Two days for relaxation have passed – the only on-ice activity the Kraken have soaked in was Saturday, in the franchise’s inaugural Super Skills Showcase event followed by a the off-day on Sunday.
“Rest was more important than getting on the ice,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “Got a little extra in morning skate to make sure we get our brains going, and bodies feeling good – and have good energy tonight.”
“That’s the real key for us.”
Marcus Johansson, who missed Friday’s game against Anaheim, is expected to return to the lineup this evening. Defenseman Carson Soucy, on the shelf for the last seven games with a lower body ailment, is “real close” and “will need a couple of more days” according Hakstol, to refine conditioning and timing needs before returning.
Hakstol will see the team he once coached for two seasons, one including Paul MacFarland (now running the Kraken forwards and power play) during the 2019-20 pandemic interrupted season. With a goal to build off an emotional and dramatic 4-3 victory over the contending Anaheim Ducks last Friday, another contender is in the Kraken way of a different kind:
Namesakes listed above that have driven the Maple Leafs to the top power play unit in the league (30.5%) and fifth best penalty kill (84.1).
“Very talented group, they compete and play hard,” said Hakstol. “Against this team, our play with the puck is really important. They’re a team that generates second and third opportunities through puck recoveries and extend zone time.”
“The efficiency getting out of our own zone with the puck is pretty important.”
The Leafs, six points off the Atlantic Division lead, are on the hook to avoid three straight losses (the length of their road trip through Calgary, Vancouver, and Seattle) for the first time since a four-game drought from Oct. 18-25. They lost to the Canucks, 3-2 on Saturday and are led by Matthews’ 55 points and 32 goals (3rd most in the NHL).
The game, starting at 6pm, an hour earlier than the conventional weeknight start time, is a rescheduled contest from Dec. 19 which was postponed due to COVID-19 complications.