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“Reality” Hitting Kraken Hard in Light of Further Blows to Lineup Health

Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Despite maintaining rigorous health for a majority of the season, injuries are finally catching up to the Kraken’s defensive corps, 135 lost man games later. 

Mere hours away from meeting the Vegas Golden Knights on the road, head coach Dave Hakstol revealed Thursday there’s “concern” as to Jamie Oleksiak’s health. Seattle’s biggest blueliner blocked a shot and missed the entire second period of Monday’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres, putting the team at risk of losing their second defensive staple. Vince Dunn, set to miss his seventh-straight game, did not fly with the team— there is no change in his day-to-day status. 

Accordingly, Coachella Valley Firebirds’ defenseman Cale Fleury was recalled on emergency basis, albeit not in enough time to participate in morning skate. 

Oleksiak returned to finish Monday’s game and record 9:49 of ice time over the course of the night, but the recall and his game-time decision status hardly encourage optimism for his availability. Good news could be on its way in the form of Jaden Schwartz’s return after missing the last four, also a game-time decision. 

Intentionally using Tuesday’s off day as a mental reset, the Kraken will try to clear their heads of past and present haunts for what they hope will be a rousing rematch effort versus the Knights. Frustration leftover from their disastrous meeting last week lingered in every game played since. 

“It’s really important to get back to the game that we take pride in coming off of our last game against Buffalo,” Hakstol said. “That’s the first time that I’ve seen that [emotion] sink in— it seeped into our game, our team game didn’t look very good. The off day was, I believe, was good for everybody.” 

Pivoting from his “clear the deck” message issued to reporters— and presumably the locker room— over the remainder of the home stand, Hakstol’s now encouraging his team into “forward thinking.” Optimism, however, is expensive and hard to come by drenched in the shadow of looming elimination and deploying a roster already held together with AHL reinforcement in Ryker Evans.

Hakstol acknowledged it Wednesday— the “reality” of the team’s “situation,” which the team sat down and “talked directly about,”— during a media availability largely fielding questions concerned with post-elimination topics: shutting Dunn down for the season, exploring Jared McCann’s centerman potential.

Asked to clarify what that reality is, the head coach quipped grimly to “take a look at the standings.” Seattle still sits 11 points out of the second Wild Card, behind none other than the Knights.

“The reality is— and it doesn’t change for me today [opposed to] two days ago— to try to change the look of that standings, do everything that you possibly can,” he said. “There is a real specific formula to our team with everybody contributing and everybody doing their job and everybody feeling really good about doing their part when we’re successful.”

Clearly, victory is out of the question when they don’t stick to that formula, having gone winless over the home stand. Here’s hoping the flight from Seattle to Vegas included enough Super Tock to put the locker room back together.

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