Oliver Bjorkstrand has to take just one look around the room to notice the optimism after a big Thursday overtime win against the New York Rangers.
“It was the first one of the year, so getting that is nice for a team, especially with New York came back late to tie it,” Bjorkstrand said. “That was huge for us.”
The rebound effect corrected an issue that became more glaring by the game (past regulation), getting a win in overtime. What hampered them on Sunday against Winnipeg, helped them on Thursday. Now the Kraken take newfound energy into what will be Bjorkstrand’s 400th career NHL game, tonight against the Los Angeles Kings at 7pm (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network), yet another testimony of longevity and consistency.
Bjorkstrand, who briefly acknowledged he was aware of the impending milestone, has just one goal in 17 games. It’s well off the pace of 28 he scored last year in Columbus. But he has five assists in his last seven games, generating production elsewhere.
“He’s such a good pro and intelligent player,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “He hasn’t scored as much as I’m sure he would like. But the opportunities are there and the important thing is he continues to contribute in different ways.”
“He’s quietly a good leader for us.”
Bjorkstrand, tied for third on the Kraken with eight assists in 17 games, on pace in the playmaking department to surpass his career high of 29 in one season. For the third game in a row, he’ll be matched up with fellow linemates, Brandon Tanev and Yanni Gourde, complementing his game with an abrasive approach.
“I like how they go north and do the forechecking,” said Bjorkstrand. “They’re really good players It’s been a few games and I feel good chemistry now, which is nice.”
Martin Jones will start against the Kings, a familiar tune to which he’s produced a symphonic sound against the former team that “shocked” him upon a deal to Boston on the day of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Flipped days later to San Jose where he became their backbone in net, Jones owns a career record of 20-7-3 with a .926 save percentage in 30 games against Los Angeles.
Dave Hakstol has Philipp Grubauer now at his disposal, and tonight will back up Jones, though Hakstol declined to reveal a long term plan with goaltending workload.
“Jonesy’s been rock solid and sound, great over the last stretch,” said Hakstol. “His performance has been very, very consistent.”
Grubauer, now to 100 percent health after falling to a lower body injury four weeks ago against Colorado, knows one thing he’s missed.
“Just being on the ice, battling and competing (with your teammates),” Grubauer said. “It’s always tough to watch from the sidelines.”
The Kings are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night and did not skate Saturday morning, potentially lining up Cal Petersen after Jonathan Quick endured four goals on 25 shots against a two-goal effort from Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson.
While it may be early and mental preparation for a player does not change from game to game, there is growth in the meaning of a Pacific Division battle, which separates the Kraken and Kings by two points while starting a voyage of five straight games against division rivals.
“Same mindset for us,” said Bjorkstrand. “But it’s not a secret those points are really important. We want to get them.”
The Kraken and Kings will square off four times this season, with the Kraken taking the first meeting in a 4-1 victory, October 13 in Los Angeles.
KRAKEN PROJECTED LINEUP, 11/19: