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Kraken host the Blue Jackets: PREVIEW

Time to get a win before no hockey for 2 weeks

Columbus Blue Jackets v Seattle Kraken Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

The Need to Knows:

The Time: 7pm PT

The Place: Climate Pledge Arena in beautiful Seattle, WA

Place to Watch: ROOT Northwest, ESPN+ for out-of-market fans

Place to Listen: KJR 93.3fm

An Opposing Viewpoint: The Cannon

Know Your Enemy:

  • The Blue Jackets may have won the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes last summer, but that seems to be the last time they won anything. They’re now knee-deep in the race for the first overall pick in the 2023 Draft aka the Connor Bedard lottery.
  • Speaking of Johnny Gaudreau, he’s still pretty good at hockey. He leads the team with 48 points in 49 games.
  • They’ve also got a pair of rookies making some hay this year on offense: Kent Johnson, a former University of Michigan teammate of Matty Beniers, is 5th in the rookie points race with 23 in 46 games. Kirill Marchenko leads all rookies (and his team) with 6 power play goals this year.
  • Columbus isn’t dead last in offense or defense, or even special teams play, but they are sufficiently bad in each of those categories to hold the last place spot as of this morning.
  • The schedule makers really love sending teams on that Western Conference trip through Vancouver and Seattle on back-to-back nights. The Jackets lost to the Canucks by a score of 5-2 last evening, pushing Vancouver a little farther from the top draft lottery spot.

Game Notes:

This is Oliver Bjorkstrand’s first game against the Blue Jackets since being traded this past offseason. Seattle is the first home he’s known outside of Columbus in his year career, so it’ll be the first time he’s ever had a chance to play against a former NHL team of his. He played alongside current Kraken teammate Alex Wennberg in six of those seven seasons in Columbus as well.

The Kraken are coming into this one hurting. Justin Schultz, Jaden Schwartz, and Matty Beniers are all dealing with some injury or another, and the week off for the All-Star Break really can’t come soon enough. With those guys out, expect to see more Ryan Donato, Daniel Sprong, and Brandon Tanev in the top-six forward group tonight. Max McCormick is also expected to get his first ice time with the Kraken this season.

Both teams played just last night, so it could be a slow start for both sides. With Martin Jones and Joonas Korpisalo getting the starts yesterday, expect tonight’s goaltender matchup to be Philipp Grubauer vs Elvis Merzlikins. This is good news for two reasons: first, Grubauer has been better this year than you might think. But second, and more importantly, Merzlikins has been brutal this year. Per Evolving Hockey, Merzlikins ranks dead last in goals saved above expectation. His .868 save percentage is the worst in the National Hockey League for any goalie to play at least 11 games. This is a guy the Kraken offense can take advantage of, regardless of how injured they may be.

Let’s head into the break on the right foot, shall we? We’ll see you at 7!