Panthers defenseman Matt Kiersted said the Florida Panthers and Seattle Kraken players who make up the Charlotte Checkers rarely remember they aren’t NHL teammates.
With the split between the two squads in the AHL, while the Kraken await their Palm Springs AHL affiliate to debut next season, there aren’t many instances for those players to think of themselves as anything but teammates.
Sunday was a rare case of that actually happening.
Kiersted, who played in his eighth NHL game of the season in Seattle on Sunday, is used to being in the same locker room as Joey Daccord. Instead, they were on opposite sides of the first Panthers game at Climate Pledge Arena.
“It seems like everyone’s just teammates (in Charlotte),” Kiersted said. “Then you’re called up and a game like tonight, and we’re playing against Joey.”
Kiersted and Daccord were in the same lineup for the Checkers only a week ago when they fell to the Texas Stars. Daccord got recalled to replace Chris Driedger, who is in COVID protocol, and Kiersted has been in the lineup for the Panthers.
Neither was thinking about the other as a potential opponent, even with this game on the upcoming calendar.
“Exactly seven days ago, we played together in Charlotte at home, sitting next to a handful of these guys in the dressing room,” Daccord said. “So it’s very odd honestly, because it’s like your teammates, your friends. Like when you’re teammates with someone you become automatically like brothers, right? And then now it’s like, we have to play against them tonight. So it’s very strange.”
Daccord didn’t start in net Sunday after he played Friday night, but Kiersted said it would have felt extra weird to be going against a guy he shoots on in warmups and practices.
For Daccord, the feeling was mutual.
“Some of my buddies over there are goofballs, and I’m a goofball, too, so like, I think it’d be so hard,” said Daccord. “Obviously once you get in the game, it’s different but just thinking about it, I feel like I would laugh seeing one of them shoot on me but I know how they’re shooting, so that helps.”
Kiersted, Daccord and Panthers taxi squad member Chase Priskie got dinner on Saturday night. That’s not super common for opponents.
The trio aren’t opponents or teammates, but something in between with the shared agreement with Charlotte.
It didn’t even register for Kiersted until the Panthers touched down in Seattle and he had a chance to see Daccord with Priskie that he realized they’re actually playing against each other in the NHL.
“We were kind of texting and talking to each other,” he said. “But that’s when it kind of hit that like, wow, we’re really gonna be playing against each other.”
It’s likely a few weeks from now or sooner they’ll all be on the same team again. Driedger is going to exit protocol and taxi squads won’t continue beyond Jan. 31.
By the time Daccord and the Kraken were done skating Sunday morning, the Panthers were taking ice, with Kiersted preparing to work to beat his usual teammate and friend.
It’s the last time the teams play each other this year. When they faced off at the end of November, they didn’t have any Charlotte crossover. The way the roster was structured, though, it was bound to happen eventually.
“It’s just weird,” Daccord said. “It just feels like it’s a very unique feeling honestly, because you just feel like you’re teammates and then you show up to the rink and you’re in different dressing rooms.”
Lauzon goes back in lineup
Jeremy Lauzon went back into the lineup Sunday after he sat out Friday’s loss against the Blues. The night before that game, he took two third-period penalties, one of which the Sharks scored on to make it a one-goal game.
The Kraken survived that, but it led to Lauzon watching a game on the sidelines. He went in for Haydn Fleury, who has played just one game since Jan. 1.
Lauzon leads the Kraken in penalty minutes. He averages 17:23, shy of his career high 18:43 last season when he played on a top pair.
“He’s played top minutes for us early this year, he played against top lines,” said Kraken assistant coach Jay Leach, who also coached Lauzon in AHL Providence. “So he definitely has that ability. I think we’re all sort of trying to find what fits and what doesn’t. And, you know, I think Jeremy is right in that mix. I think the one thing I would say about Lauzy is there’s never ever a question of his desire to be the best and work at it. And I put all my money into those guys. So he’ll find a very prominent role with us and will be a very, very effective defender like you’ve seen with us here and also with the Bruins. It’s just gonna be a matter of time and the right fit when we get this thing rolling.”
Lauzon has played 32 games and for the most part, been cemented as a part in the lineup. Even as Will Borgen has continued to play more, Fleury has become the odd-man out. Carson Soucy seized a full-time role after being in that rotation early, too.
It seems the Kraken have bought in on the 24-year-old and want to stick with him.
“I think he’s like a lot of us in this organization,” said Leach. “We’re still trying to find our way.”