It’s hard to believe the Kraken have had success recently without the core of their lineup.
First it was Mark Giordano going into COVID-19 protocol at the start of a four-game road trip. Then Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz, the Kraken’s leading scorers, were injured before the finale of that trip.
They both missed two games, when the Kraken earned three points with a shootout loss at Detroit and a home victory over Edmonton on Friday.
And now the Kraken have inched closer to full health entering Monday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Climate Pledge Arena.
Eberle and Schwartz skated on a line centered by Yanni Gourde on Monday morning, usually an indicator that they’ll be in the lineup. Eberle also practiced with the top power-play unit Sunday. Schwartz said after skate he was still a game-time decision, and coach Dave Hakstol said Schwartz, Eberle and Calle Jarnkrok would be game-time decisions.
The Kraken have been fully healthy for about 40 minutes all season — the first two periods against two weeks ago before Jarnkrok got hurt. Despite that, the group has built chemistry and, perhaps more important, confidence.
They’ll need their “A” game again against a strong Penguins team.
“You look at their group, with the veteran group they have, the success they’ve had, they know how to win,” said Hakstol, who has seen the Penguins plenty of times as the former coach of the Flyers. “This team plays fast and hard; that’s what really stands out to me. The obvious skill level and maturity as a group. … The terms fast and hard come to mind when I think of that group.”
The Penguins have played well against playoff teams in the past few weeks, beating Washington, Carolina, Florida and Edmonton. Pittsburgh is another one of those challenging teams. Hakstol and the Kraken have refrained from calling these measuring-stick games as Seattle climbs back into the playoff conversation, but these are the tough kind of games that do tell a story.
In the next two weeks the Kraken will face playoff-caliber clubs such as Winnipeg, Anaheim and San Jose. Those Pacific Division and Western Conference games carry a bit more weight, but knowing they can beat the league’s best teams also is important.
Pittsburgh, with the NHL’s best penalty kill, will challenge a hot Kraken power play. It’s also a revenge game for the Kraken’s Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev, both former Penguins. Emotions could run high, and there are two more points on the table against another good team.
Projected Kraken lines
Based on Monday’s morning skate:
Jordan Eberle-Yanni Gourde-Jaden Schwartz
Marcus Johansson-Alexander Wennberg-Mason Appleton
Brandon Tanev-Morgan Geekie-Jared McCann
Calle Jarnkrok-Ryan Donato-Joonas Donskoi
Vince Dunn-Adam Larsson
Carson Soucy-Jamie Oleksiak
Jeremy Lauzon-Haydn Fleury
- Goalie Philipp Grubauer will start his third consecutive game.
- Ebere, Jarnkrok and Schwartz are all game-time decisions, As of Monday morning, Jarnkrok was still listed on injured reserve, so a return for him would involve a roster move.
- Morgan Geekie has faced the Penguins once, in his NHL debut. He scored two goals.
Time/place: 7 p.m., Climate Pledge Arena.
TV: ROOT Sports.
Radio: KJR-AM (950).
About the Penguins
This season: 11-8-5 (last game: 4-1 win over Vancouver).
Player to watch: Sidney Crosby.
Notes: The Penguins’ 2.63 goals allowed per game are seventh fewest in the NHL. … Pittsburgh has the best penalty kill in the league at 91.8 percent. … The Penguins’ 35.7 shots on goal per game are third-most in the league. … The Penguins snapped a three-game losing streak with their win at Vancouver on Saturday. … Casey DeSmith will start in net for the Penguins.