All signs point to a return to game action for Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Wednesday’s morning skate was optional but the team’s top D-man showed up anyway, arriving promptly for a sparsely attended on-ice session. Head coach Dave Hakstol held a brief scrum and confirmed to the media that Dunn would be available tonight, barring an unexpected setback.
When Dunn spoke after practice on Tuesday, he assured reporters that he was raring to go having missed the last four games, all of which the Kraken lost.
Though stoic throughout Dunn’s downtime, Adam Larsson should be eager for a reunion with his defensive partner, whose absence was felt in spades throughout the D-corps. Productivity from the top defensive pair means success for the Kraken at both ends of the ice.
“Those two have become a very steady pair for us,” Hakstol said. “They obviously draw some of the minutes against other team’s top lines, depending on the match-ups that we’re looking for there. A lot of times those are the match-ups that we’re looking for even more so than we are up front.”
Dunn’s ability to make successful stretch passes from his own end and to jump into the cycle at the other, gives the Kraken a competitive edge offensively. With him on the ice, Seattle controls 57% of the total shot quality and 59.1% of the total goals scored (20th and 27th respectively among NHL defensemen with at least 300 minutes played).
“He’s very important to us offensively, obviously, if you look at the stat sheet, but more importantly he’s the guy that handles big minutes,” Hakstol pointed out. “He’s a guy that is able to control the flow of a hockey game.”
Larsson did skate this morning, as did Jamie Oleksiak, John Hayden, Philipp Grubauer, Tye Kartye, and Ryker Evans. Jaden Schwartz and Brian Dumoulin were seen in the locker room along with Joey Daccord, who’s expected to get the start. (As Simmer reported in the wee hours this morning, Arvid Soderblom will get the start for the Blackhawks.)
Most notably in attendance were Oliver Bjorkstrand and Matty Beniers. The former missed Tuesday’s practice due to what Hakstol called “personal” reasons, and the latter participated Wednesday for the first time in a regular contact jersey since being injured on January 13th. Beniers arrived well before the intended 10:30 start and practiced well after the media availability concluded.
Bjorkstrand will play. Beniers doesn’t appear ready to go tonight.
There’s no need to rush the reigning Calder Trophy winner (NHL rookie-of-the-year). None of the Kraken’s four upcoming opponents are currently in a playoff position, although the St Louis Blues, in town Friday night, are neck and neck with Seattle in the Western Conference wild card race.
After these four games, the others being against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Climate Pledge Arena on Sunday and the San Jose Sharks on the road on Tuesday, the Kraken enter the NHL All-Star break and their bye week.
— Seattle Kraken Getting Healthy At Practice (with Dunn and Beniers video)