Notes from Kraken: Mason Appleton’s return gives Dave Hakstol more options; power play that takes off
For the first time in all season, the Kraken had a healthy roster to choose from ahead of Wednesday night’s game at Climate Pledge Arena against the Carolina Hurricanes, who had the NHL’s best record.
The addition of forward Mason Appleton from the injured reserve, where he spent last month with an ankle injury, gave coach Dave Hakstol options he had been lacking since the start of the season. the season. At the time, forward Calle Jarnkrok was on COVID-19 protocol and missed the franchise’s inaugural game in Las Vegas, and fellow winger Marcus Johansson was injured the same night and missed several weeks.
Appleton was injured late in the second period of a win against Montreal on Oct. 26 when he was shot from behind by former Winnipeg Jets teammate Sami Niku. Appleton’s foot was placed in a boot splint, and he said the injury impacted “every part of my day.” Climbing the stairs every night to bed was a challenge.
Even after weeks of rehab that allowed him to stop and quickly start on skates to adjust to his attacking role, it was only after a day or two that he did. ‘felt in good shape.
“You can warp a lot faster than you can get into it,” Appleton said Wednesday. “So, yeah, I did some due diligence on the ice and I’m thrilled to be going. “
To free up a spot in the roster, the Kraken put forward Nathan Bastian on waivers with the intention of sending him to their AHL affiliate in Charlotte, NC, if he clears by Thursday. . Bastian has been healthy in the first five homestand games and has scored one goal and one assist in 12 appearances.
Appleton recorded an assist in seven games before his injury. But it’s his straightforward, straightforward style that the Kraken have strived to improve all season, and they’ve done a better job in recent weeks.
Hakstol planned to pair Appleton on a line with equally skilled winger Brandon Tanev, hoping to free up space for Jared McCann to add to his goal totals.
“It’s a part of being a power forward, getting on the ice and creating puck possession in the zone,” Hakstol said of Appleton. “He’s not a guy who’s just going to stand on top of the blue paint (the crease), but it’s one of his abilities, so when it’s time to get inside he has to be a guy on that line that when it’s his turn he has to get there.
The good start of Silvertips
All the turmoil over the Kraken in its first month of games and beyond may have distracted local attention from the blistering debut of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, who was 15-0-0-1 for open their season ahead of Wednesday night’s game against the Tri-Americans in town. A win, overtime or shootout loss would give the Silvertips points in a franchise record of 17 straight games.
The only flaw in their record this season was a 4-3 home shootout loss to Portland on October 29. Since then, they had won nine in a row, and on Saturday they will host the Kamloops Blazers (14-2-0-0) in what is billed as a showdown between the Memorial Cup contenders.
Everett still has some way to go to match the 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings’ opener, who started this season with a record 29 games (24-0-5) unbeaten. This Brandon unit, coached by former NHL defenseman Dunc McCallum, had current Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon as a winger. There were also four future NHL first-round picks in McCrimmon’s brother Brad, Brian Propp, Ray Allison and Laurie Boschman as well as other future NHL players Walt Poddubny, Steve Patrick, Don Dietrich, Rick Knickle. , Dave Chartier and Don Gillen.
Brandon finished 58-5-9 and set the current Canadian Hockey League record with 125 points. They beat Portland to win the WHL title, but lost the Memorial Cup final to Peterborough, 2-1, on a Bob Atwell goal in overtime after a controversial no-freeze decision.
Everett is unlikely to be able to replicate this Brandon squad, usually in conversations like the greatest in WHL history, but coach Dennis Williams’ early departure from the squad was somewhat unexpected in that ‘he lost Eternal All-Star goalie Dustin Wolf in the pro ranks. But goalkeeper tandem Braden Holt and Koen MacInnes more than handled matters and bolstered a crew that includes point guard Michael Gut, outstanding defenseman Olen Zellweger, top scorer Jackson Berezowski as well as Alex Swetlikoff, Ronan Seely. , Jonny Lambos and Aidan Sutter.
Kraken has seconds
Kraken’s once-worst power play in the league has taken off noticeably this month, dropping from 6 for 15 since November 9 for a 40% efficiency rate, just behind 42.9% by Colorado during this period. But the power play had shown signs of improvement before that, logging in for a goal against Buffalo on Nov. 4 just two seconds after a men’s advantage officially expired.
Hakstol attributed the boost to the Kraken successfully chasing rebounds. McCann leads the team with four power-play goals, two after rebounds since returning from COVID-19 protocol on November 11.
McCann scored against Chicago after Jaden Schwartz picked up a rebound and slipped the puck to him. On Sunday, as the Kraken trailed the Washington Capitals 1-0 at the end of the first period, McCann recovered a rebound and brought the tying scorer home.
“One of the most important things the other night was that we scored on a ‘second’ – we found a rebound on the inside,” said Hakstol. “We were in this room maybe two weeks ago talking about it – how we were shooting the puck without finding ‘seconds’ inside. So that was a big part of the goal for us the other night. “
- Kraken goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer got his second straight start in goal on Wednesday, after a season-best performance with 37 saves against Washington. That was the highest for Grubauer in 38 saves for Colorado against Dallas on December 28, 2019.
- Kraken striker Joonas Donskoi’s 18 consecutive scoreless games on Wednesday were his longest drought since 2018-19. Donskoi, who played for San Jose, scored on Jan. 10 of this season and played 34 regular-season games and five other playoff games before registering his next goal in a second-round series against Colorado.