SAN JOSE, Calif. – Kraken forward Ryan Donato and his teammates arrived here on their latest road trip during a COVID-19 surge that has rocked the NHL and other professional sports leagues.
Donato admitted it’s “a bit more nerve-wracking” to see six of his teammates and colleagues impacted – Kraken forwards Yanni Gourde, Riley Sheahan, Colin Blackwell, assistant coach Jay Leach, video coach Tim Ohashi and an additional Kraken staff member have been in COVID protocol since the weekend – knowing it could just as easily be him or his family. The NHL canceled a Carolina game Tuesday in Minnesota with six Hurricanes having tested positive since Monday while Calgary Flames matchups were paused late last week after an outbreak among six players and a coach.
And while the league and the Kraken have yet to implement any stricter limits on player activity during these trips, Donato said everyone in the dressing room appreciates the need for caution.
“I think we know as a team that staying super healthy is vital,” Donato said. “I mean, it is at any point. If you have a 10-day injury it’s going to cost the team a lot. So, we know how important it is to make sure you’re maintaining your distance from people and not going out in public as much as you would. It’s just making sure you’re being cognizant of your own stuff.”
Donato said players still go out to eat together, though not as often as before.
“Here and there,” he said. “When you’re outside, it’s a little bit different. I just think you try and take all the precautions that you can. Make sure you wash your hands, wear your mask in certain areas. And if you can eat outside and do those types of things. But sometimes you’re not that lucky and it (the virus) can follow you. It could be coming from your family members.”
Kraken coach Dave Hakstol agreed the team has tried to practice “continued vigilance” in the wake of their latest personnel entering protocol.
“We’re trying to be as careful and intelligent as we can in all situations,” he said. “Whether it’s at the rink, at home or on the road traveling. We’re doing everything that we can to stay smart in that regard.”
Donskoi still looking for first goal
Joonas Donskoi really was certain he’d snapped a 27-game goal-scoring drought in last Saturday’s third period against Columbus. Donskoi had been the first to skate over to the Kraken bench to high-five teammates – as the goal-scorer typically does – only to later learn his shot had actually deflected off Jaden Schwartz.
So, Schwartz got credit for the power-play goal that helped spark a Kraken comeback from 4-1 down. And Donskoi was still looking for his first goal of the season entering Tuesday’s game here against a San Jose Sharks team he broke into the NHL and spent four seasons with.
“At first, I was like ‘Oh, I scored a goal! Wow!’ I didn’t know that it was Schwartzie, but that’s fine. That was a good screen by Schwartzie there in front of the net. It hit his (butt) and went in.”
Donskoi said his teammates were pleased to strike on the power play, having gone 0-for-5 the prior game in a shutout loss to Winnipeg.
“There’s been a lot of talks, a lot of meetings,” he said. “I don’t think our power play has been at the level where it needs to be this year. We’ve had some good looks. We’ve had some good games. But I think we have to … be more consistent and find the back of the net more often.”
The Kraken are 12 for 74 overall with the man-advantage, a 16.2% success rate that has them back down to 24th of 32 teams after they’d previously moved up more toward league average during a three-week surge.
As for Donskoi’s own lack of scoring, he’s focused on doing other things well. The assist on Schwartz’s goal left the pair tied for the team lead with 13 apiece while Donskoi has also become a main feature on the team’s penalty killing unit for the first time in his career,
“Obviously, I want to score goals and I hope it starts to go into the net soon here,” Donskoi said. “But I’m not thinking about it too much.”
…The Kraken on Tuesday called up forward Max McCormick from their AHL affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hakstol said a corresponding move wasn’t needed given all the players in COVID protocol and that McCormick would add depth given the team’s short-handed situation.
McCormick, a healthy scratch Tuesday night, leads Charlotte with six goals despite having only appeared in 15 of their games.
…Hakstol on Tuesday night started a line of Donato and Donskoi centered by Alexander True. All three played for the Sharks at one time or another in recent years.