Not that there are any easy NHL nights, but the Seattle Kraken definitely step up in competition Sunday night in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche.
The ‘Stanley Cup hangover’ has apparently ended, with the Av’s going 7-2-and-1 over their last ten games, despite still sporting a line-up missing seven players due to injury, including captain Gabriel Landeskog, who had knee surgery in October. He could return to playing in mid-March.
Contrary to that trend and potentially to the Kraken’s benefit, the Av’s actually played Saturday night in Dallas and lost 7-3 to the Stars; Colorado’s second loss in a row. They were defeated at home on Wednesday 7-5 by the New Jersey Devils.
With their tenacious forecheck, the Kraken could make it hard on Colorado as they start a four-game homestand with a game every other night through Saturday. Seattle owns a three-game win streak, all of the victories coming on this four game roadie that ends tonight. The Kraken defeated the St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Forward Oliver Bjorkstrand left Friday night’s game in Columbus with an apparent lower body injury and didn’t return. It appears he’s available again for Sunday’s game.
Based on team media personnel reports, it looks like Philipp Grubauer gets the start. Remarkable how that goalie ‘hot-not-hot’ Kraken shuffle continues.
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The team the Avalanche beat for the Stanley Cup last summer, the Tampa Bay Lightning, saw a surprising scenario unfold on Saturday evening. Head coach Jon Cooper benched his top line of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov for the entire third period during the Bolts 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
“We have a set of standards here that everybody adheres to, and it’s not pick and choose, it’s everybody,” Cooper said postgame. “It’s how it was for today and those guys are an extremely important part of our team, but for 20 minutes tonight, I thought the other guys could get it done, and they almost did.”
The Lightning have lost four games in a row and sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. Because of wide gaps in the standings in the Eastern Conference, it’s been pretty clear for awhile that Tampa Bay will open the playoffs with a repeat first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite a 4-1 setback in Vancouver on Saturday night, it appears the 2nd place Maple Leafs should have home ice for that first round series. They’re five points ahead.
The three players didn’t speak to the media postgame, but veteran teammate Pat Maroon did.
“They’re mad about it and they’ll man up to it and own up to it,” Tampa’s ‘Big Rig’ said. “And I think that’s why this locker room has been so good over the last few years, is that we all hold each other accountable.”
The LA Kings picked up a home victory on Saturday night, 4-2 over the St. Louis Blues to move four points ahead of the Kraken into a first place tie in the Pacific Division with the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3 shoot-out winners over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
The Kraken and Golden Knights have played two less games than the Kings. The Golden Knights host the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday evening while the Kings are off.
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