Usually these Western road trips are a slog that require staying up late for little return. Like, Vegas is cool and all, and if you make a vacation out of it then it’s obviously a lot more of a draw, but how many people are really getting hyped about a game in Anaheim or San Jose? They’re just stops on the way, a place to stamp your itinerary, go about your business and move on to the next city.
But tonight’s game is something else entirely.
It’s not just the novelty of a new destination, but the Seattle Kraken and the Carolina Hurricanes share plenty of connections. Start at the top with Seattle GM Ron Francis and assistant GM Ricky Olczyk (as well as two of RF’s kids, also on the staff), work your way down the roster to former Hurricanes Morgan Geekie and Haydn Fleury, throw in Former Future Hurricane Philipp Grubauer if you want, and continue into the broadcast booth where John Forslund plies his trade in a new market for the second time in his distinguished career.
Add to that the incredible (albeit pricey) renovation of what was KeyArena into Climate Pledge Arena. From split dual scoreboards to a huge window allowing passersby to look down onto the action from the top of the upper bowl, it’s rare that the arena itself is a reason to tune in, but honestly the arena might be the reason to pay attention tonight.
Everyone around the Hurricanes is crossing their fingers that Ethan Bear’s positive Covid test remains isolated to him only, although the fact that they were able to make it through yesterday’s practice with no other additions to the list is a very promising development. With Bear sadly on the shelf, unable to play tonight in what will presumably be his only visit to the city where he played junior hockey, Brendan Smith will again get the call. Frederik Andersen will likely go back in net, and the Hurricanes will take the ice for the first time in Seattle looking like this:
Jordan Martinook - Sebastian Aho - Seth Jarvis
Nino Niederreiter - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Martin Necas
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Steven Lorentz - Vincent Trocheck - Teuvo Teravainen
Jaccob Slavin - Tony DeAngelo
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Brendan Smith - Ian Cole
Injuries and Scratches: Ethan Bear (Covid protocol), Derek Stepan (healthy)
The Kraken were done no favors by the Golden Knights running roughshod over the league in their first year of existence. Up front they’re probably a bit better than their record indicates, but all that is being undone by laughably bad goaltending. The conventional wisdom when they signed Philipp Grubauer was that the Kraken suddenly had an unexpected abundance of riches in net, but instead Grubauer has statistically been one of the worst goalies in the league, leaving the Kraken spinning their wheels well below .500 while seeing teams like Anaheim and San Jose outperform expectations.
Hey, come to think of it, that sounds awfully familiar.
The Kraken have been off since beating the Capitals on Sunday, ending a six-game losing skid in the process. Here’s how they will look tonight as they end a six-game homestand against another Metro opponent:
Jaden Schwartz - Yanni Gourde - Calle Jarnkrok
Marcus Johansson - Alex Wennberg - Jordan Eberle
Brandon Tanev - Jared McCann - Mason Appleton
Colin Blackwell - Morgan Geekie - Joonas Donskoi
Mark Giordano - Jamie Oleksiak
Adam Larsson - Jeremy Lauzon
Carson Soucy - Vince Dunn
Injuries and Scratches: Haydn Fleury (healthy, what else?), Nathan Bastian (healthy), Will Borgen (healthy), Ryan Donato (healthy)
Referees: Ian Walsh #29, Corey Syvret #23
Linesmen: Travis Gawryletz #64, David Brisebois #96