ST. LOUIS — A Kraken penalty-killing unit that’s shown recent improvement got an early game challenge it couldn’t completely surmount against one of the biggest power-play threats it’s faced all season.

The St. Louis Blues entered the night with the NHL’s second best power play at 26.4%, anchored by the trio of Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. They’d combined for 61 goals and 94 assists thus far, with Tarasenko scoring a club high 25 to go with 36 assists.

“It’s a good test for us,” Riley Sheahan, a mainstay on the top penalty-killing line, said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “I think the last little bit we’ve been kind of figuring things out and playing to our system the way that we want.

“So, it’s a great test and there’s a lot of opportunity for our kill to show what we can do. I think if we can just keep rolling and keep that chemistry that we have going then I think we’ll be fine.”

The Kraken gave the Blues’ power play multiple chances in the game’s opening minutes, killing off a Joonas Donskoi tripping penalty and seeing Jared McCann take a double-minor for high-sticking immediately after. The Kraken actually had the better scoring chances as they killed off the first three minutes of McCann’s penalties — getting off the only three shots to that point — but Robert Thomas scored on a wrist shot from the left circle to open the scoring at the 8:38 mark.

Sheahan said the Blues’ “battle level” is high and they’re better than most teams at digging for loose pucks and getting them back to the point to set the power play up. On that note, he feels the Kraken’s battle level has also been high in the two weeks since the trade deadline and should serve the team well.

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The Kraken have six short-handed goals in their last 18 games and nearly notched a seventh when, during McCann’s double-minor, Carson Soucy found himself in alone on goalie Ville Husso and rattled a shot off the goal post. The Kraken lost their first game here at the Enterprise Center 2-1 back in January after carrying a 1-0 lead into the final period. They were beaten again at home by the Blues, 5-0, that same month after trailing just 2-0 in the final frame.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol agreed his team would need to fight for every inch against a Blues team that looks built for a deep playoff run. The Blues have seven players with at least 20 goals, compared to just one for the Kraken in Jared McCann.

“This is arguably the deepest team in the National Hockey League,” Hakstol said. “If you look at their group of forwards, all of their top nine forwards, every one of them has 41-plus points. Every one of them has 15 goals plus. So, the depth of their team is impressive. And it doesn’t stop there. On their back end they’re a good, sound, solid team. So, the mindset and competitiveness of our group tonight is going to be really important through 60 minutes.

“There are going to be different momentum swings. We’ve got to make sure that any negative swings are short lived and that we go back and push the next shift.”

Hakstol said having and maintaining “energy” has been a prime focus for his team since the trade deadline. Rather than honing-in on individual matchups against the well-balanced Blues, he planned to focus on maintaining that energy level and giving the groups showing more of it the most ice time.

Fleury hits ice right away

Cale Fleury got into game action immediately on Wednesday following his promotion from the AHL a day prior. Fleury, who joins his older brother Haydn on the Kraken roster for a second time this season, finished with seven goals, 26 assists in 58 games for the AHL Charlotte Checkers. 

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The Kraken liked Fleury’s poise and puck movement during two February road games he played for them against the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders on back-to-back nights. He started Wednesday paired alongside Jamie Oleksiak.

“He’s had an excellent year there,” Hakstol said of Fleury’s AHL campaign. “It followed up right from the couple of games he played with us here when we were out on our Eastern road trip. He played some good hockey for us there. He did a real nice job in the back-to-back games. He’s continued that in Charlotte. He’s been part of a good run to get into a solid playoff position there.

“And hes been one of the top defensemen there. He’s done all the things that have been asked of him and so, he’s earned this opportunity. He’s not here on a free look. He’s earned the opportunity to be here, and to get into games for us here.”

Note

Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn, making his latest return to St. Louis after being selected from the Blues in the expansion draft, entered Wednesday with eight assists in his last 10 games — tied for seventh highest among NHL defensemen during that span.