LAS VEGAS — It’s been 10 years since Jordan Eberle played in an NHL All-Star Game. A lot has changed.
The team he’s on now, the Kraken, didn’t exist, nor did the Vegas Golden Knights, the team that’s hosting the weekend. But that’s not stopping Eberle from embracing the privilege as the first Kraken player to participate in the NHL’s midseason summit.
“It’s an honor,” Eberle said during media day Friday. “It’s kind of a cool thing to have, for sure. To come back (to the All-Star Game) is neat with a new expansion team. This time I get to share it with a little girl and a wife, and that part of it is kind of neat. Just trying to soak it in and enjoy it as much as I can.”
The forward, 31, is taking part in his second All-Star Game, the first since his second NHL season in which he scored a career-high 76 points as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.
This season hasn’t produced that type of offensive output from Eberle, with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 44 games, but he’s on pace to eclipse the scoring pace he had from his final two seasons with the New York Islanders.
The Kraken entered the All-Star break with 34 points (15-27-4), fourth-fewest in the NHL, but closed strong with a 3-0 win at the Islanders on Wednesday. Eberle had an assist — his second point in the past three games after going the previous eight without scoring — in his first game back on Long Island since the Kraken selected him from the expansion draft.
It was also the night goalie Philipp Grubauer recorded the first shutout in Kraken history with a 19-save performance.
“Off the ice and on the ice, he has the same demeanor,” Eberle said of his goaltender, a finalist last season for the Vezina Trophy. “You’re not going to get a lot of reaction out of him. Lately he’s been playing really well and winning games for us. As a team, as we get better, we’re starting to play better in front of him, and he’s making a ton of saves.”
The 15 wins are a far cry from where the Golden Knights sat at this time five seasons ago. They were a Western Conference-best 35-13-4 on Feb. 4, 2018 and went on to finish with 109 points and make the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
“I think the only difficult thing I would say is the Knights set the bar so high that we’re trying to compete with that,” Eberle said.
The Kraken have a long way to go before coming close to a playoff spot, but Eberle is proud of the way his team has responded. Seattle is 5-4 in its past nine games that include wins against the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Kraken followed that with consecutive 3-2 losses at the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, two perennial playoff teams in the Eastern Conference.
“I like to think that we’re starting to catch our groove right now,” he said. “It took us some time to get going. Obviously, we haven’t had as much success as the Knights did in their first year, but for us it’s been about getting better every day and building the culture, and building an identity.
“The last couple weeks, or really the last month, we’ve started to do that. I wouldn’t say we’ve won as many games as we should, but we’re more consistent in our play and we’re starting to beat some really good teams. It’s about building a foundation and building up from that, and I think we’re starting to do that.”