No guarantees, but there’s a decent likelihood Seattle Kraken regular season leading scorer Jared McCann could be back in the line-up Tuesday night in Game-4 against the Dallas Stars. The club has a bit of flexibility due to the day-to-day upper body (likely head) injury to 4th-line forward Daniel Sprong.
It allows physical 22-year-old rookie Tye Kartye to remain in the line-up, he’s been playing with Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle on the “top line”, and also allows Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol the opportunity to ease McCann back in, possibly lower in the pecking order and maybe on special teams.
Skating and taking a majority of drills in a white jersey for the second straight day, McCann appears to be over his injury, now it’s about “finding his legs” and his conditioning level after sitting out since Game-4 of the Colorado Avalanche opening round series.
“Nice progression for him today, got him some good rep’s, we don’t practice right now, but we got him a couple rep’s on lines this morning, got him a couple rep’s on the power play and one on the PK,” Hakstol said after morning skate Tuesday. “Haven’t changed his status at this point in time. I expect we’ll see him in warm-ups tonight, that’s another progression for him.”
This rings of a “game time decision”.
Does being up a game in the series 2-1 on the Stars as opposed to trailing in the series affect the decision making? It shouldn’t. It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, McCann will want to play and there’s no question the club would love to have him back.
“There’s no rule that says the team that’s down 2-1 has to be the hungrier team,” Hakstol said. “That’s it. We’ve talked about competitiveness and will as you go through a series and we know and understand that theirs will be at a high level, but nothing says it has to be greater than ours. That’s on us.”
McCann was knocked out of the Seattle line-up on a late hit by Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar in the 1st-period on April 24th at Climate Pledge Arena. After skating in a red no-contact sweater this past Saturday, he’s been taking drills in a regular jersey since.
“He’s a great player, obviously he has the scoring ability,” Kraken center Alex Wennberg said. “When he’s gone obviously, other guys step up and take advantage of it, and right now he’s back, I feel it just gives us more fire power. So if he gets in with his skill and ability, it’s something that we’re really looking forward to.”
Kraken Foe Update
The Dallas Stars appear to have similar good or great news. Top tier defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who left Game-3 with a face/head injury after taking a deflected shot to his chin, will be ready to go for Game-4 Tuesday night.
How valuable is he? Before Game-2 in Dallas last Friday, Dallas GM Jim Nill told Seattle Hockey Insider that “he changed our franchise”. After getting a lucky bounce in the NHL Draft Lottery in 2017, the Stars took Heiskanen 3rd-overall at the NHL Draft.
Outside of goalie Jake Oettinger, Heiskanen is Dallas’s most important player. He’s played close to 30-minutes most nights in the playoffs, including a whopping 41-minutes-plus in the Game-1 double-overtime affair in the opening round against the MInnesota Wild.
Heiskanen was hurt on the same play that allowed Jordan Eberle to score the game’s opening goal in the 2nd period on Sunday night. The Stars seemed to implode in his absence, giving up four more Kraken goals in the period en route to the 7-2 loss.
— Just past the midway point of the 2nd period Sunday, we watch Sprong get crunched by two Stars in the left wing corner of the offensive zone. As the play moved back up the ice, we watched Sprong slowly and uncomfortably make his way to the Kraken bench, at one point almost falling backwards. He sat down, took off his helmet, rubbed his head and had a two or three minute conversation with a Kraken trainer before leaving for the dressing room. He did not return and is presently listed as day-to-day.