Kraken goaltender Chris Driedger says he’s ready to finally give his team the one-two tandem in nets with Philipp Grubauer that’s been talked about for months but not yet implemented.
When the Kraken signed top free-agent Grubauer days after taking Driedger in July’s expansion draft, word was both would see ample action somewhat near a 60-40 split. It hasn’t worked out that way at all as Grubauer got the season’s first four starts, the final one in Philadelphia where Driedger came on in relief during a blowout loss and hurt his knee — though he finished the game.
So, instead of Driedger starting the team’s fifth game, that task went to Joey Daccord. Driedger spent two weeks on injured reserve but says he was fortunate the knee was only “tweaked” during a third period Flyers goal he allowed.
“I didn’t really think it was going to be a huge deal,” Driedger said Wednesday following his first workout since being reactivated. “I just felt it during the game and then the next day it was no bueno.”
The swelling didn’t last very long, which meant he could start rehabilitation rather quickly. Recovery time was spent acclimating the knee to an assortment of odd positions a goalie often finds himself in.
“I’m just trying to get back into those positions and feel comfortable and not feel like I’m hesitating through the pain or anything like that,” he said. “So, it’s been a process. But we’ve put it to the test.”
Grubauer was inconsistent on the opening road trip but improved in Driedger’s absence.
Heading into play Wednesday, Grubauer sported a 2.82 goals against average (GAA) and .897 save percentage in eight starts — in a league where anything above a 3.00 GAA and below .900 in save percentage is subpar.
But remove the blowout loss to the Flyers and those numbers drop to a 2.30 goals GAA and .912 save percentage, meaning it’s still too early to spot definitive trends. His four games the past homestand, Grubauer allowed just seven goals.
So, that gives Kraken coach Dave Hakstol some decisions to make on where to get Driedger needed playing time. Grubauer is on pace to appear in a career high 78% of Kraken games, meaning it’s likely Driedger gets his first start sometime the next few days.
“You kind of prepare as much as you can in practice,” Driedger said. “But really just getting back in the game and getting that game feel is key to that.”
Hakstol was non-committal, cautioning that the goalie’s 50-minute workout Wednesday was his first time back practicing with the team.
It seems likely Grubauer, rested on Monday in Edmonton, will start Thursday at home versus Buffalo and in next Tuesday’s key divisional matchup in Las Vegas.
That leaves the potential for a softer Driedger landing against the Coyotes in Arizona on Saturday. The Coyotes are widely considered the league’s worst team and will be coming off a Friday night road contest.
Kraken plan opening of 32 Bar & Grill
The wait for Kraken fans to enjoy watch parties at the team’s Community Iceplex training facility — at least, some smaller-scale ones — is finally over. After a seven-week delay, largely blamed on global shipping slowdowns, the team plans a Saturday opening of the 32 Bar & Grill restaurant overlooking two of three ice rinks at the venue.
A highlight is a glass enclosed “puck bar” counter display of more than 1,200 hockey pucks featuring teams past and present at all levels of hockey nationwide and in Canada. The Kraken asked fans last June to donate pucks to the project.
The bar overlooks the main Kraken practice rink opposite a giant video scoreboard where select Kraken games will be featured on nights when recreational hockey leagues aren’t using the ice. The team has yet to announce when the first such game would be shown on the screen and open the venue up to a much bigger watch party with fans viewing from the stands as well as the restaurant. Kraken food and beverage director Ken Moriarty said Kraken games home and away will also be shown on most of the 17 TV screens positioned within the restaurant itself.
“Right now we’re going to plan on doing it for all games,” Moriarty said. “Because I mean, there are a lot of people that can’t get into the stadium. And they’re going to want to be here, kind of the home of the Kraken. So, we think it’s a natural tie-in to have to come in here and do their watch parties here.”
Kraken chief operating officer Victor de Bonis said the team also plans team watch parties on a giant screen this spring at the Seattle Center’s outdoor plaza between Climate Pledge Arena and the Armory building. Two years ago, thousands of Sounders fans packed that same plaza for the team’s MLS Cup victory celebration.
Charter/Spectrum subscribers only getting Blazers games on ROOT Sports for now
Charter/Spectrum subscribers in Eastern Washington have been kicking up a fuss on social media wondering why they can’t get Kraken games on ROOT Sports.
After all, Charter/Spectrum was one of the major carriers announced by ROOT Sports as agreeing to pay for additional programming added to the regional sports network’s broadcast lineup last month in the form of Kraken and Portland Trail Blazers games.
But it turns out, providers had the option of paying for both new teams, one or none and Charter/Spectrum was the only company that opted for Blazers games alone.
“They sort of said ‘We’re going to take the Blazers for now and we’ll think about the Kraken,’” said Patrick Crumb, national president of AT&T Sports, which manages Mariners-owned ROOT.
Many of the provider’s customers live in northern Oregon and had been clamoring for the NBA games. Crumb said conversations remain ongoing about getting it to take Kraken games as well.
Kraken hope luck will shift on power play
The Kraken enter Thursday’s game against Buffalo sporting the NHL’s fifth worst power play overall and tied with Vegas for the worst overall at home. The team has converted just three of 32 chances overall and is 0-for-14 at Climate Pledge Arena.
Kraken coach Hakstol said his team is getting opportunities but — much like its overall offensive game — is not converting any. He counted “six Grade A opportunities” against the Oilers with the man advantage that didn’t go in, but remains hopeful his team’s luck will shift and its puck possession and zone time will pay off.
“You’d like to have a little bit of puck luck along the way,” he said. “But until that starts happening and falling our way, we’ve got to get a little hungrier in the blue paint (the crease), we’ve got to get a little hungrier on seconds (rebounds) and really work to find one.”