Breaking down opponents the Kraken will face in upcoming road trip
Break time is over. The Seattle Kraken players, many of whom spent the past week in Mexico or Hawaii, traded in their fruity drinks with umbrellas in them for water bottles and practice jerseys on Monday.
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The team returned to the ice after a week off for practice on Long Island to prepare for Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders. The team is in a good playoff position but there is plenty of hockey left and Seattle will have to shake off any vacation sand as the schedule makers have cut them no slack.
The team starts the stretch run having to test their 16-5-2 road mettle with a five-game road trip right out of the gates.
Not quite as daunting as the team’s historic seven-game swing in January but it will still be formidable nonetheless.
The Kraken set an NHL record by sweeping that road trip and while they don’t need to win all five this time, they have a chance to set the stretch run tone by winning the road trip.
Here’s a look at the trip and where the team sits.
Prior to the All-Star break, the Kraken were beginning to experience some injury issues. Matty Beniers was out with an upper-body injury, and Justin Schultz and Jaden Schwartz missed multiple games. After beating the Columbus Blue Jackets the night before the break head coach Dave Hakstol mentioned that he didn’t feel any of the injuries were of the long-term variety and looking forward to the break.
It was a surprising comment because usually the severity, or lack of, for injuries has been state secrets for Hakstol. But sure enough, At Monday’s practice, all the injured players, including Schultz who had been put on the injured reserve and Beniers who missed the last two games, were reportedly on the ice.
It remains to be seen exactly who will play on Tuesday night – no state secrets were revealed Monday – but the fact that those players were practicing is a positive sign.
The Kraken made a trade Sunday to add depth to the defensive group when they acquired Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks for a 2024 fourth-round NHL Draft pick. Megna, 30, stands at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds and has 12 points this season. He’s a solid stay-at-home defensive defenseman who gives the Kraken a little more depth on the blue line, which is always a positive.
Megna is great insurance if Schultz continues to be hurt and it will be interesting to see when he’ll get into a game.
Health and depth will be key factors as the schedule moves closer to March 3rd’s NHL Trade Deadline.
Seattle has one of the easiest schedules for the rest of the season but that is no reason to start feeling comfortable. The Kraken are holding on to the top spot in the Pacific Division by percentage points and ahead of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference by six points.
Here’s a quick look at who they’re playing on the road trip.
Tuesday, 4 PM at New York Islanders (26-22-5)
The Kraken beat New York on New Year’s Day last month and it should be tougher this time around. The Islanders pulled off the big trade last week with Vancouver that brought them Bo Horvat. He made his debut with the Islanders Monday night in a 2-1 New York win in Philadelphia. Horvat did not figure in the scoring and played center with former Seattle Thunderbirds star Mathew Barzal on one of his wings. The Kraken should expect those two to be on the first line again Tuesday night.
Thursday, 4 pm, New Jersey Devils (32-13-4)
The Devils are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and will be the toughest draw on the road trip. Seattle in 1-0 against New Jersey after 4-3 overtime win at Climate Pledge Arena on Jan. 19.
As always, forward Jack Hughes is the player to watch for the Devils and is red hot, having extended his point streak to a career-high nine games.
Friday, 4 pm, New York Rangers (28-14-8)
Playing a back-to-back will be tough for Seattle here and against a good Rangers club will make this game a huge challenge for the Kraken. New York is a team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and is backstopped by goalie Igor Shesterkin, who may be the top goalie in the league. The Kraken will hope to avoid him, not that backup Jaroslav Halak is any slouch either.
Seattle is also 1-0-0 against the Rangers, again, winning in overtime at home.
Sunday, 10 am, Philadelphia Flyers (21-22-9)
Super Bowl Sunday kicks off with the Kraken playing an early game, the first of the year against the middling Flyers. They have struggled at times this year but Philadelphia has some players and can be a tough out. Their power-play has had a tough time and awakened the boo birds Monday night against the Islanders.
It’s an early game so Seattle will have to deal with finding the energy before lunch. Forward Travis Konecny is a player to watch and has 24 goals and is on pace to hit career offensive numbers.
Tuesday, 5 pm, Winnipeg Jets (32-19-1)
The Kraken head back toward Seattle with a tough test against a good Jets team that can score with anyone. It’s the third meeting between the two teams have split two games at Climate Pledge, both by the same 3-2 score so this one should be a close game.
Winnipeg has a lot of weapons up front including Mark Scheifele who has 31 goals. On the back end, goalie Connor Hellebuyck is solid and has given the Kraken problems in the past.
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