There was a look of acknowledgment and resignation on the face of coach Dave Hakstol when asked about navigating the Kraken’s latest COVID-19-generated layoff.

Hakstol on Monday morning was preparing to implement a three-day Kraken practice plan ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators at Climate Pledge Arena. But before taking the ice, he was told that the NHL had postponed the game due to a COVID-19 outbreak that has sidelined nine Senators.

It’s the seventh such postponement for the Kraken, leaving them in a position where they’ll have played just three times in 24 days once they face the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. Though all NHL teams face similar scheduling challenges, few are trying to fix things to the extent Hakstol and the Kraken are, in having lost eight of their past nine games.

“Obviously, it can be hard midseason to have this large of a break,” Hakstol said of his team’s now nine-day layoff, thanks to postponements of home games against the Senators and New York Islanders and a contest at Winnipeg. “As I look back over the last month, we’ve had a lot of stop and go. There’s been a lot of days where there’s been some indecision. Some days where we’ve stayed away from the rink due to the threat of COVID and things like that.

“So in reality we haven’t had a whole lot of good practice time over the last month as we’ve come through the Christmas break and everything.”

Kraken general manager Ron Francis was even more blunt: “This is probably the strangest season that I’ve ever been a part of in the NHL. And it’s continuing with this break, to say the least.”

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A struggling team that isn’t practicing well or seeing game action typically won’t improve. The Kraken have just a lone victory the past month and zero since beating San Jose three weeks ago.

On Monday they placed center Alex Wenneberg in COVID-19 protocol, joining defenseman Jeremy Lauzon. They also announced that Kraken forward Brandon Tanev had successful ACL surgery on his right knee Thursday and is expected back next season after rehabilitation of six to nine months. 

But for now, the struggle for active Kraken players is finding quality practice time and in-game action to develop rhythm and consistency.

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“It seems like every day you get a different thing to deal with,” Francis said of navigating COVID-19. “You kind of don’t know when it’s coming, and then all of a sudden, there it is.”

The team’s inaugural season has been veering off a cliff since early December, with a 10-19-4 overall record almost nobody associated with the Kraken saw coming. 

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“I think going into the season we felt that we were a very competitive team,” Francis said. “And that if things went our way we could have some success. And unfortunately things haven’t gone our way.”

There’s no quick fix. The league trade deadline is more than two months away, and Francis, disappointed as he is, said he won’t deal key pieces in search of immediate improvement.

Some defeats are attributable to subpar goaltending. But it’s overly simplistic to point out the struggles of Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger when the Kraken often fail to score more than two goals in a game.

In 33 games this season, the Kraken have two goals or fewer in 16.  

They are 1-13-2 in those contests.

And when the Kraken do score, they often allow a goal within minutes.

Hakstol and Francis on Monday were both directly responding to questions about COVID’s impact and said they weren’t making excuses.

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“I try not to whine all over the place here,” Hakstol quipped.

But the sparseness of the team’s schedule is real. And it arguably has hurt an expansion squad seeking an identity far more than other teams that have played together a while.

Hakstol plans to use this layoff to stage quality practices. He has scheduled one daily until the Colorado game and wants his team physically and mentally right.

“Getting our minds straight, that’s very, very important for us,” he said. “We had a couple of great efforts against Philly and Calgary in the back-to-back against fresh teams. Then, we were really sluggish on the third night (against Vancouver). That’s one of the biggest things: to make sure that we clear the deck mentally and get back to work here.

“There are a number of things that we want to touch on, and this gives us the opportunity to take the time to do that.”

Players continue to say the right things about scheduling adversity. 

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“I don’t know if we’ve given it much thought, honestly,” forward Morgan Geekie said Monday.

But they will soon. The NHL has indicated it will try to squeeze added games into a now-canceled three-week Olympic break in February. Negotiations about how that will transpire remain ongoing between the league and players.

“Obviously, they’re going to have to fit games in somewhere,” Geekie said. “I think everybody’s aware of that. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Right now, the Kraken need to hope the bridge doesn’t collapse beneath them. After starting the season 4-6-1, they’ve gone 6-13-3 since.

And to hear Francis tell it, any improvements need to come from the team already there.

“I think for us it’s maintaining the plan and trying to build this right from the ground up,” Francis said. “And in the meantime, try to do what we can with the team to help those guys. They’re working hard, they’re competing. We just tend to make a big mistake at the wrong time, or find a way to lose rather than finding ways to win. We’ve got to get that turned around and sort of get that confidence back.”

They’ll have an entire week of practice to work on it. And to remember it all once they face an actual game situation again.