Thursday night’s game is just the Kraken’s eighth of the season, so any declarative statement is premature, but its opponent — the Minnesota Wild — is one of the early measuring stick type of games on the schedule.
Aside from the opening-night loss in Las Vegas — and since then the Golden Knights have struggled — the Wild is the toughest team the Kraken will have faced. Tuesday’s opponent, the Montreal Canadiens, reached the Stanley Cup Final last season but have struggled.
The Wild, though, is dealing with a COVID-19 breakout situation that all too familiar to the Kraken and other NHL clubs; three assistant coaches didn’t make the West Coast trip, and now Minnesota’s leading scorer, Mats Zuccarello, is out of the lineup.
It’s still a new challenge for the Kraken, following its best performance to date against Montreal, a 5-1 win. The Wild shoots a lot and generates many high-danger chances (the seventh-most in the league), which will give the Kraken a good feel for just how much its defensive game has adapted.
“They’re a very competitive team,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “They play well within their structure and do that throughout their lineup. For us, it’s a real good challenge, in order to build we have to meet that head on and play consistently.”
The Wild generates a lot of chances off rebounds, an area in which the Kraken has struggled at times. Seattle’s game plan against the Canadiens worked, but Montreal has also struggled mightily to start the season; Minnesota is a team going in the opposite direction with a good start.
“These guys get the puck to the net, and they get around the net very, very well,” Hakstol said. “We need to continue building off of what we are, and for us we’re going to continue working as a team to be really hard to play against that defends well — not just in your own defensive zone, all the way down the rink.”
Projected Kraken lines
Jaden Schwartz-Yanni Gourde-Calle Jarnkrok
Joonas Donskoi-Aexander Wennberg-Jordan Eberle
Brandon Tanev-Jared McCann-Morgan Geekie
Ryan Donato-Riley Sheahan-Nathan Bastian
Mark Giordano-Jamie Oleksiak
Haydn Fleury-Vince Dunn
Jeremy Lauzon-Adam Larsson
- Philipp Grubuaer is expected to get the start in net.
- Fleury will dress for his second consecutive game after a strong outing against the Canadiens. Carson Soucy, the Kraken’s expansion pick from the Wild, is not expected to be in the lineup.
- Mason Appleton, who suffered an apparent knee injury Tuesday, could be out long term but hasn’t been placed on injured reserve. Nathan Bastian slots into Appleton’s spot for Thursday night.
About the Wild
This season: 5-1-0 (last game: 3-2 win over Vancouver)
Player to watch: Kirill Kaprizov
Notes: The Wild added three coaches to COVID protocol ahead of its game in Vancouver, and Rem Pitlick along with leading scorer Mats Zuccarello before the game in Seattle. … Connor Dewar, Kyle Rau and Jon Lizotte were recalled. … Dewar previously played for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. … Minnesota has the second-best Corsi-for percentage in the league at 56.29. … It also has the second-highest high-danger for percentage at 59.77. … Minnesota’s 218 shots on goal are the sixth-most in the NHL.
Kaprizov – Eriksson Ek – Fiala
Greenway – Hartman – Bjugstad
Rask – Gaudreau – Bjugstad
Duhaime – Sturm – Rau
Goligoski – Spurgeon
Brodin – Dumba
Merrill – Kulikov