Kraken Bjorkstrand, Kings Kopitar

Kraken Game Day 34: LA Rematch, Injuries Galore, Kopitar Factor

Kraken Game Facts:

This Afternoon: Seattle Kraken at Los Angeles Kings

Where: Arena

When: 7 pm pacific

TV/Radio: TNT / FM 93.3

Key Factors:

Starting goalies: Joey Daccord vs. Cam Talbot

The Kings played last night with David Rittich in net, forced to make just 15 saves in LA’s 4-1 win over the Sharks in San Jose. Fatigue shouldn’t be an issue.

The Kraken will try to muster up the energy to take on a tough checking, very responsible Kings team for the second time in five nights. Seattle was out-shot by LA 38-19 on Saturday night at Climate Pledge Arena, but managed to force overtime and a shoot-out with an Oliver Bjorkstrand goal with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in regulation.

The Kraken lost the shoot-out. They also lost in overtime on Monday night in Dallas after more late heroics. This time it was Eeli Tolvanen tying the game 3-3 with 22-seconds remaining. Seattle has earned six of a possible eight points over its last four games.

A new problem has developed: Injuries. Fans are hopeful Jared McCann will be able to play in this one. He left the game in Dallas after two periods, minutes after center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare departed due to injury. Bellemare has been placed on injured reserve.

Those two joined Andre Burakovsky and Jaden Schwartz on the list of hockey wounded in the Seattle forward group. Schwartz is on long-term injured reserve. Kole Lind was called up on Tuesday from the Coachella Valley Firebirds of the AHL.

Who’s Hot? And Not …

Bjorkstrand has five points over his last three games and leads the Kraken in scoring with 26 points. The Danish sniper has goals in each of his last three games against the Kings.

Defenseman Vince Dunn is second on the team in scoring. He’s one assist shy of having 100 as a member of the Kraken. He had an assist in three straight games before going pointless in against the Stars.

Seattle’s centers haven’t been contributing consistently on offense. Matty Beniers had a goal and an assist in Dallas after going pointless in six straight games while Alex Wennberg has just three points over his last nine.

The capper: Yanni Gourde has just one point over his last 12 games.

Meanwhile, Kings center Anze Kopitar, who I refer to as the “Slovenian Fountain of Youth”, has five points in his last four games including two last night and a goal against the Kraken on Saturday.

I chatted with Kings head coach Todd McLellan while walking out of the rink postgame in Seattle and he said Kopitar has been the consummate leader and professional.

“We reduced his ice time by two or two-and-a-half minutes a night; no complaints, no knock on the door, just continues to perform and play at the highest level. A pro’s pro through and through,” McLelland told me.

The 36-year-old captain has won two Stanley Cups, two Lady Byng trophies (gentlemanly play combined with excellence), two Selke trophies (best defensive forward), and the Mark Messier Leadership Award (2022).

He’ll be Slovenia’s first Hockey Hall of Famer and his number-11 will someday hang in the rafters at Arena.

Special Teams

The Kraken and the Dallas Stars both went 0-for-4 on the power play on Monday night. Seattle’s power play has slipped to 19th in the NHL at 20.6%. The penalty kill is surging, having killed off 18 of the last 19 opposing man advantages. That’s just short of a 95% success rate since December 7th and has nudged the overall season number to 78.7%

The one PP goal against during that stretch was scored by the Kings. Seattle also scored once on the power play in that last head-to-head match-up.

LA’s power play operates with a 21.7% efficiency rate while its PK is a very solid 86.4%. Tuesday night in San Jose the PP scored once in two opportunities while the PK gave up a goal on three Sharks’ chances.

Coming In:

Kraken: 10-14-and-9 after Monday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars.

Kings: 18-6-and-4 following Tuesday evening’s 4-1 win over the Sharks in San Jose.

Recent Kraken Feature Stories:

— Some Day Kraken? Prospect Luke Melnik’s Life As A Hockey Nomad

— High Energy Kraken Radio Man Fitzhugh Rolls Into His 3rd Season

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.