After a much-deserved day off following a grueling five-game, eight-day season-opening road trip, The Kraken returned to the Kraken Community Iceplex today for the first of two days of practice leading up to their home opener this Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. An energetic, up-tempo practice set the tone for a Kraken team that’s ready to right the ship after starting 1-3-1.
Below are some of my observations from today’s Kraken practice and subsequent media availability:
A S***load of speed
“Speed” was the word of the day at Kraken practice today. Every time Hakstol was at his whiteboard explaining a drill to the players, you could hear the word “speed” more than any other. In one transition drill, I could hear a coach telling the forwards he wanted a “s***load of speed” coming in at the defense. Well, the players certainly delivered it. In both raw skating speed and execution with the puck, this was the fastest practice I’ve seen from the Kraken since they first came together a little under a month ago. Players’ feet were constantly moving all through the neutral zone in the multiple 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 drills and it led to some types of offensive looks we haven’t seen so far in Seattle’s first five games.
When I asked Hakstol about the emphasis on speed in today’s practice, he pointed out that it’s an element of the game that was missing toward the end of the team’s road trip. “As we went through the road trip, games 3, 4, 5…we got slower, not in our puck movement, but just overall in our transition. And that really hurt us in terms of generating any type of offense, as well as putting you back on your heels defensively.” It’s a good sign to see Hakstol identifying something that was lacking and doing everything he can to address it with this valuable practice time. The players have clearly bought in too.
Jarnkrok returns from COVID-19 Protocol
Calle Jarnkrok was back on the ice today after missing the entire season opening road trip while in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. Jarnkrok said that he was lucky he “didn’t get that sick” and added that he had been skating for a couple days already before today’s practice. Jarnkrok was slotted in on the new look 1st line with Jaden Schwartz and Yanni Gourde (more on that later). At times it looked like he was still easing back into game shape but I would still expect to see him in the lineup for Saturday’s home opener.
Colin Blackwell makes brief appearance
After a few false alarms during training camp, we had our first real Colin Blackwell sighting at Kraken practice today. Blackwell was one of the first players on the ice today, taking a few slow laps before cautiously working on his skating stride. After about ten minutes, Blackwell left the ice as his teammates lined up for the start of the day’s practice drills. After practice, coach Hakstol said he still couldn’t provide any kind of timeline for Blackwell’s eventual return. That would hint that it might still be a while before we see Blackwell in the Kraken lineup. That said, it’s good to see him actually on the ice in a Kraken jersey.
Geekie in red no-contact jersey
Morgan Geekie was on the ice for all of practice today, but was wearing a red, no-contact jersey after taking this shoulder to the chin from the Devils’ Jonas Siegenthaler in Tuesday’s game:
Geekie played part-time in the team’s line rushes and looked okay, but you have to exercise caution when dealing with a likely head injury. Hakstol said Geekie is “day-to-day”.
New line combinations and D pairs
Coming off of three straight losses, Hakstol decided to go with some new forward lines and defense pairs at practice today:
Some notable observations:
- For the first time, the first line wing pair of Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle has been split up. Eberle was moved to the second line with Alex Wennberg and Jared McCann while Calle Jarnkrok took his spot with Yanni Gourde and Jaden Schwartz. Personally, I like this look. Eberle could use a change after having a run of bad luck through the team’s first road trip. I’m interested to see how Jarnkrok fits in on the first line.
- Morgan Geekie’s name isn’t listed in the line rush tweet above but he did rotate into that 3C role with Gourde and Donato. If Geekie misses time, I would expect someone besides Donato to take that spot since a Tanev – Donato – Donskoi line would have no natural center.
- After numerous defensive breakdowns over the team’s last two games, Hakstol switched up the defense pairs again. Giordano and Oleksiak spent time paired together at the start of training camp and would make a very solid first pair. On paper, Soucy-Dunn should have everything you could want in a D pair. Soucy brings the size and defensive acumen while Dunn brings speed, breakout ability and offensive talent. Don’t know what to think of Lauzon-Larsson yet but I don’t hate it. That leaves Fleury and Borgen as the 7th and 8th d-men.
- Alex Barré-Boulet was not on the ice today, as the Kraken placed him on waivers today.
- Philipp Grubauer and Joey Daccord were the two Kraken goalies on the ice today, and Chris Driedger remains sidelined with an injury.
- Most of the Kraken players haven’t been inside Climate Pledge Arena yet. They’re scheduled to have morning skate there on Saturday before the home opener.