Gameday Morning Brief – 12/9 vs. Winnipeg Jets

After a frustrating 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, the Kraken look to right the ship tonight against the Winnipeg Jets. By all indications, the Kraken took their loss to the Pens seriously and seem determined not to let a result like Monday’s happen again. The very next day, the team had an an intense, high-energy practice that included multiple battle drills. They’ll need that energy against a Jets team that’s fighting to keep up in the competitive Western Conference wild card race.

Opponent Spotlight – Winnipeg Jets

The Jets enter tonight’s game as one of six teams with a realistic shot at winning a very competitive Central Division. They’re 11th place in the Western Conference, but only one point out of a playoff spot. Home advantage has been key for Winnipeg, who are tied for the second-most home wins in the Western Conference, but have won only three of their 11 road games.

The Kraken will need to have a strong offensive effort tonight because the Jets have a true difference-maker in net. Connor Hellebuyck was a Vezina Trophy winner in 2020 as the league’s best goalie and will be a candidate to start in goal for the American Olympic Hockey Team in February.

Three Keys

  1. Powerplay – The Kraken’s powerplay has been hot the last two weeks, but has gone without a goal in the team’s last couple games. They’ll have a prime opportunity to get it back on track tonight. The Kraken will go from facing the Penguins’ NHL-best 91.9% penalty kill on Monday to the Jets second-worst in the league 66.2% PK unit. Taking advantage of the Jets’ struggles while down a man could make a big difference tonight.
  2. Shutdown Line – If yesterday’s practice line rushes are an indication, it looks like we’ll see the return of a Tanev-Gourde-Jarnkrok line tonight. That line, which got separated after Jarnkrok’s injury, was being used as a shutdown line of sorts for the Kraken. They would play big minutes, often against the opponent’s top line. The Jets have a lot of talent stacked on their top forward line, which consists of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler. That’s a 90-point player, 80-point player, and 70-point player all skating together. Gourde’s line will likely draw the difficult task of shutting them down.
  3. Gio Factor – Captain Mark Giordano will draw back into the lineup tonight after missing five games in COVID protocol. He’ll return to his spot on the top powerplay unit and bring some extra scoring ability to the blueline over recent replacements like Jeremy Lauzon or Will Borgen. Don’t be surprised if the captain gets on the scoresheet in his return.

Did You Know…

Today’s memory comes from the last Winnipeg Jets game I went to. The Jets faced the Sharks in San Jose in January 2018 amidst a bit of off-ice controversy. In a video posted by the team, some Sharks players named Winnipeg as the road city they least like to travel to, saying it was “cold and dark”. Defenseman Justin Braun even questioned whether the city had WiFi yet. Jets fans understandably didn’t take too kindly to those comments, and a mini-rivalry developed between the two teams. Being a Sharks fan and San Jose resident at the time, I didn’t want people to have a negative opinion of my city or my favorite team, particularly Jets fans, who are some of the best and most passionate in the NHL. So I decided to take it upon myself to mend some bridges while I was at the game. I went to the Jets side of the ice for pre-game warmups and talked to as many Winnipeg fans as I could find. Unsurprisingly, many hadn’t forgotten about the Sharks players’ comments.

They were a friendly bunch. I got to chatting with them, we bonded over our mutual love of hockey, and before long, all was forgiven.

So if you’re at the game tonight and have the chance to talk to a Jets fan, make sure to give them a warm welcome to Seattle (and the WiFi password).

ECH Postgame Live

Join us after the game for ECH Postgame Live! After every Kraken game this season, RJ and Dylan will do a live postgame show on the Emerald City Hockey YouTube Channel. ECH Postgame live will include a postgame wrap-up, analysis, and a live Q&A with viewers. Join the community of Kraken fans who tune in after the game to talk Kraken hockey!

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