Kraken back home in Seattle, Barzal returns for homecoming

Seattle Kraken v New York Islanders

ELMONT, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 02: Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders carries the puck against the Seattle Kraken during the second period at UBS Arena on February 02, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

No rest for the weary. 

With no morning skate officially at hand, the Seattle Kraken face a quick turnaround into tonight’s face-off with the New York Islanders at 7pm (950 KJR/ Kraken Audio Network), playing in their third game in four days while completing a brief late-night plane trip from Vancouver after a 5-2 loss last evening. 

The Kraken open up a stretch of back-to-back games at home this week, regrouping after tonight for a Thursday matchup against the Boston Bruins, holding the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. 

Jaden Schwartz, still on injured reserve for a hand ailment sustained nearly two months ago against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 29, skated during a morning workout session along with goaltender Chris Driedger and defenseman Will Borgen, before the Islanders emerged from the tunnel for their morning session.  

The Kraken will look for a series sweep of the Islanders tonight, after a 3-0 victory in the inaugural matchup at UBS Arena on Feb. 2, the first shutout in Kraken history with Philipp Grubauer in between the pipes for a 19 save shutout. 

Grubauer, resting last night while Chris Driedger made a season-high 41 saves in the loss at Vancouver, was named third star in spite of a 2-1 defeat at Calgary in his last outing, last Saturday night at Scotiabank Saddledome. 

The Islanders will bring leading scorer and two-time All-Star Mat Barzal (33 points) to the Puget Sound for his first on-ice visit since donning Seattle Thunderbirds colors for four seasons, part of a decorated WHL career which included the 2017 WHL championship along with the playoff MVP, league First All-Star Team honors in his final season, and 278 points in his 202 career games spent on Thunderbirds home ice at accesso ShoWare Center. 

“It’s awesome to be back,” said Barzal. “When we won that championship there was this euphoric feeling we got as a team. When you work so hard for four years to accomplish that, and with a bunch of my good friends and teammates coming up as 16 year olds, it was super rewarding.” 

Barzal’s former assistant coach, Matt O’Dette, now head coach of the Thunderbirds, is expected to be in attendance along with several members of the Thunderbirds team, front office, and staff. 

The Islanders are led by Brock Nelson’s 17 goals but have struggled to regain form in the playoff race under head coach Barry Trotz, winning just three of the last ten games at 18-20-7 (43 points) and 19 points out of the final wild card spot. 

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