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Beniers, Burakovsky Potentially Out as Injuries Continue to Plague Kraken

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Health has not been kind to André Burakovsky. With only a minute and 40 seconds of ice time to his name in Saturday’s game at the Columbus Blue Jackets, the winger sustained a lower-body injury, his night finished well before the end of the first period. 

According to head coach Dave Hakstol, Burakovsky “went down the tunnel to get checked out and just wasn’t available for the rest of the [game].” Likely having not heard from his medical staff yet– which has been the case for past media availabilities– Hakstol was empty handed in terms of Burakovsky’s ailment or present status. 

Interestingly enough, Hakstol did allude to the possibility that Burakovsky was not injured upon impact with another player, sequences tending to hold nastier consequences for their victims. “I don’t know if Burky got hurt on a particular play or not.” 

The news is unwelcome regardless.

Sixteen days have passed since Burakovsky’s most recent return, from an upper-body injury sidelining him for nine games. Before that, a separate upper-body injury with rehab stealing 19 games.

Hakstol did allude to a sickness making the rounds within the Kraken locker room when speaking on the resiliency demonstrated in their 7-4 win. “We got a lot of guys that are feeling less than a hundred percent.” But with the swiftness by which Seattle Kraken PR ruled him out of the game, Burakovsky’s historically poor health, and the specific designation of his ailment as lower-body, legitimate concern is logical. 

Burakovsky has wrestled with long-term injuries consistently for nearly a whole year, since a lower-body injury knocked him out in early February of last season and was re-aggravated right before his projected return in March, eventually sidelining him for the rest of the regular season and entirety of the playoffs. 

General manager Ron Francis revealed that part of the reason the Kraken were silent during last trade deadline was due to the assumption that Burakovsky would be ready to go according to his anticipated recovery timeline.

Jaycob Megna, who played six games in his year and a half with the Kraken, was their only acquisition, motivated solely by depth concerns ahead of the postseason. Seattle had lost 101 man games by this time last season, coming largely from the long-term injuries of Chris Driedger and Joonas Donskoi, whose absences hardly affected the lineup on a game-to-game basis. 

Now, 95 man games have been lost by the midpoint. Excessive injuries to key forwards and starter Philipp Grubauer, as well as Burakovsky’s specific unreliability of health, may spur the organization to action at the upcoming deadline, March 8 at noon.

Tomáš Tatar’s early December acquisition was a perfect example of such action. At the time of the trade, the Kraken lacked two of their biggest producers in Burakovsky and Jaden Schwartz. And while Schwartz seems to be back for the long haul, both Burakovsky and Matty Beniers are questionable for present lineups. Beniers missed the entirety of the third period on Saturday after a hit by Cole Sillinger may have injured his head. 

A wretched sophomore slump has sunk its claws into Beniers, with 19 points in 42 games, but the young centerman is still a first-line fixture and a key component of the team’s dominating defense, expected to allow 2.19 goals per game (1st). 

Beniers was not officially ruled unavailable for the portion of the game he missed, but no update could be provided post-game, and none will likely come until Monday morning. Puck drop was moved to 10 AM PST, 1 PM EST following a scheduling conflict with the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFL wildcard game. No pre-game skate will be held– the game is too early. If Beniers is on ice for warmups, he won’t be out long term even if he’s a game-time decision or ends up sitting out. 

On the other hand, with how little Burakovsky played Saturday, it’s possible he misses both games of the upcoming back-to-back Monday and Tuesday, even if his injury is minor. 

Kailer Yamamoto and Devin Shore– the former healthy scratched sine Jan 4 and the latter since Dec 27– both traveled with the team on the current six-game road trip and stand as options to relieve pressure on a forward group who will head into their next two games on little rest, struggling through winter colds, and fresh off a game demanding double-shifting after only 10 forwards were available for the final frame. 

Yamamoto could slot in nicely on the fourth line alongside Tye Kartye and Jared McCann– Burakovsky’s spot– if Beniers plays. If not, Kartye could move to first-line center, and both Yamamoto and Shore could slot into the fourth line, leaving Alex Wennberg’s and Yanni Gourde’s lines untouched.

But Yamamoto and Shore provide only temporary solutions. And if the Kraken continue at this rate, a perforated lineup will not get them far in the standings– the Edmonton Oilers have kept well in tow with Seattle’s turnaround, one-upping Seattle’s nine-game win streak with 10 in a row of their own.

The Calgary Flames and the Nashville Predators, two of Seattle’s fellow Western wildcard competitors, are also streaking. Along with the Arizona Coyotes and the St Louis Blues, five other teams hold legitimate claims to postseason berths with points percentages well over .500. Five points is all that separates the Coyotes (sixth in West wildcard) and the Predators (first in West wildcard).

Seattle has secured a point in 13-straight games, but is currently third in the race for a wildcard position, tied with Edmonton in points (47) but not points percentage (Oilers’ .603% versus the Kraken’s .560%).

Temporary solutions keep a team’s head above water– they don’t make a team dangerous. Perhaps it’s time to for the Kraken to consider further external reinforcements.

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