Andre Burakovsky has waited for seven months to touch the ice once again in game action.
He’ll get his chance on Thursday night, sealing the finish line for a return from a previous season-ending groin injury, when the Seattle Kraken host the Vancouver Canucks in the first of two pre-season meetings, 7pm PT (950 AM KJR) at Climate Pledge Arena.
“Been awhile,” said Burakovsky. “We’ll see how it goes today. Might be a little rusty from playing game speed, but it’s been feeling good in practice. I’m excited to get back out there.”
Burakovsky’s measured impact is enormous. He was well on his way to breaking a previous career-high of 22 goals in his first season with the Kraken and receiving top six minutes that led to a 13-goal, 39-point campaign but ended prematurely after 49 games, when he limped off the ice at UBS Arena in New York with the injury suffered in the first shift of the contest.
Head coach Dave Hakstol said that given the possibility of rust, expectations for Burakovsky on Thursday night will be tempered.
“We're not going to look for too much,” said Hakstol. “Really, nothing different than we're asking from the group - just continue to try to build our pace and the pace that we're playing with and then try to get a little bit more detail back into our game. For Burky, coming back into game action, there's a little different pace and physicality, that he's going to step into tonight.”
By indications of morning skate line rushes, he’ll start on a line with center Alex Wennberg and right winger Kailer Yamamoto, the first star in Monday’s 5-3 split squad wins at Calgary. Other notables such as Tye Kartye, Yanni Gourde, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and even Shane Wright will be sprinkled throughout the forward group. Hakstol said it’s unlikely he’ll keep line combinations together the entire game.
“We're going to try to give players different looks and you're going to see from what the line chart looks like at the start of the game tonight, we'll probably switch a couple things mid game,” said Hakstol.
“I'd love to be able to give each one of these lines a full game and look at it, but we don't have that luxury. So, after the first period, I've got a couple of changes I would like to make, so that we can see different elements within the same game.”
Philipp Grubauer is expected to start in net, making four saves in six shots before being relieved on a scheduled maneuver by Joey Daccord, who stopped all 15 shots he saw before the shootout. Hakstol said Grubauer is expected to receive more playing time, and then give way to Daccord, with an exact amount of workload undetermined.
The Canucks are 0-1-1 in the pre-season, coming off a 2-1 overtime loss on Wednesday to Edmonton.