Leading Kraken point-getter Jared McCann and assistant coach Paul McFarland were scratched an hour before Sunday’s game against the New York Rangers when it was announced they’d been placed in COVID-19 protocol.
“It’s become a part of our world,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said after Sunday’s contest. “We test and players are tested often. We’re not the only ones that have had to adjust on the fly. So, we’ve had lots of time to do that.”
This is the second time this season McCann has been placed in the protocol. He was one of five Kraken players to enter it just before the team’s regular season opener against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Though McCann and forwards Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Johansson and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak eventually returned in time to play in the opener, winger Calle Jarnkrok wound up missing the entire five-game season opening road trip.
“It’s unfortunate to have guys not available,” Hakstol said. “But like I said it’s become a part of our regular course of business.”
McCann’s three goals and four assists were a team-high seven points through the season’s first eight games.
Kraken forward Brandon Tanev had one of his infrequent college reunions Sunday when good friend Kevin Rooney came to town with the Rangers.
Tanev and Rooney roomed together at Providence College for four years, and in their junior seasons in 2014-15 enjoyed a signature on-ice moment, helping the school to its first-ever national championship. Facing Boston University in the title game, Rooney won a faceoff with under nine minutes to go in a tie contest and dished the puck to Tanev – who buried a wrist shot from the right side for the decisive marker.
“Kevin took the draw and I was fortunate enough to get a bounce,’’ Tanev said after Sunday’s optional morning skate at Climate Pledge Arena. “I had a clear lane to the net and the puck ended up in the back of the net. It’s one of those things where you dream of winning a national championship playing college hockey and we were both fortunate enough to do that.’’
Tanev, a Toronto native, said he and Massachusetts-born Rooney discovered they had plenty in common and enjoyed “spending downtime together” as their college careers with the Friars progressed. “It’s one of those things where you don’t really know what you’re getting into, but at the end of the day, after four years, we enjoyed our experiences together and we became great friends.’’
Rooney’s uncle, Steve, had a sporadic 154-game NHL career in the 1980s with Montreal, Winnipeg and New Jersey. But despite that pedigree, Taney said he and Rooney didn’t spend much time at Providence discussing their own longshot NHL potential.
“I think you really just want to focus on where you’re at in that point in time,’’ Tanev said. “Obviously, we were at Providence and I think we wanted to enjoy our experiences there and get the best of the opportunity we had. We were student-athletes and that was super important for us. And obviously, you spend four years there and make lifelong friends and Kevin is one of them.’’
Both went undrafted by NHL teams. Rooney signed with the AHL Albany Devils and two years later was playing for its parent New Jersey club in what’s now become a 157-game career, exceeding his uncle’s.
Tanev took a less conventional route to the NHL, signing with Winnipeg straight off his senior season with the Friars and playing three games for the Jets that spring. His first full season a few months later saw him split time between the Jets and their AHL affiliate and he’s hung in for 303 games with Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and now the Kraken.
And he’s off to a sizzling start with a team-leading six goals already as of Sunday – one shy of his total all of last season with the Penguins. Rooney had a pair of goals for the Rangers heading into Sunday’s clash.
“We chatted a little yesterday,’’ Tanev said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see each other before the game but I’ll chat with him afterwards and look forward to playing against him.’’
Best offense is good defense
Hakstol said before Sunday’s game it was too early to read much into his team having compiled six goals by defenseman already. That was the NHL’s third highest total, trailing only Anaheim and Washington.
Defensemen had accounted for a league-high 27% of goals scored by the Kraken overall going into play Sunday.
The Kraken is also one of only three teams – Washington and Vegas being the other – to have multiple defensemen with at least two goals, with two apiece from Haydn Fleury and Mark Giordano.
“We didn’t set any numbers in terms of expectation, especially so early into the season,” Hakstol said. “It’s too early to start looking at those percentages and those numbers. The expectations for our D-core, really our whole group, is to work hard, defend well and get ready to transition and get up ice together. Our D-men are a part of that.’’
Kraken winger Ryan Donato entered Sunday’s game riding a hot-hand against the Rangers with four goals and two assists in six lifetime contests — including at least a point in each of those games. Yanni Gourde had four goals and two assists his last six games against New York while Jordan Eberle had four points his prior four contests versus the Rangers, notching a goal and three assists.