The Seattle Kraken, who were perhaps the most surprising team in the NHL one week ago, will visit the Florida Panthers on Sunday with a different mindset: ending a three-game losing streak.
Seattle was on a 12-1-1 roll until they played host to the Panthers on Dec. 3, losing 5-1.
“There weren’t just one or two guys who weren’t good enough,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said after the loss to Florida. “We were all below the bar.”
Seattle followed that dud with two more losses — 4-2 at home against Montreal on Tuesday and 4-1 at Washington on Friday.
“We have to get back to work,” Hakstol said after Friday’s loss. “You have tough stretches on the schedule. Guys have to step up and play good hockey.”
The Kraken will have to step up without defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who was suspended for three games by the NHL on Saturday. The league penalized him for a high hit on Washington’s Alexander Alexeyev.
Oleksiak, who has four goals and three assists in 22 games, is fourth on the Kraken in average time on ice.
Kraken center Jaden Schwartz, who has eight goals and seven assists, missed the Washington game due to an upper-body injury. He is questionable for Florida.
The good news for Seattle is the rapid development of rookie center Matty Beniers. The 20-year-old is second on the team in goals (10) and third in points (21).
Jared McCann, who played parts of three seasons with the Panthers, leads Seattle with 12 goals. Austrian winger Andre Burakovsky tops Seattle in assists (17) and points (26).
Seattle’s starting goalie is Martin Jones (12-5-2, 2.97 goals-against average), who has been helpful to the second-year franchise, which had the NHL’s third-worst record last season.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are in a funk. They lost 4-1 at Tampa Bay on Saturday.
“I didn’t think we moved the puck, managed the puck or moved our feet particularly well (Saturday),” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
Since Nov. 17, the Panthers are 4-5-3.
Interestingly, even while winning the Presidents’ Cup last season as the NHL’s best regular-season team, the Panthers still went 0-2-0 against the Kraken, including a 4-1 home loss.
This season, the Panthers have dealt with some tough injury luck. Speedy winger Anthony Duclair, who scored a career-high 31 goals last season, has yet to play due to an Achilles tendon injury.
Grinder forward Patric Hornqvist (upper body) is also on injured reserve. Forward Anton Lundell (upper body) and goalie Spencer Knight (illness) are day-to-day.
Another problem for the Panthers has been goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 5-7-1. Last season, he was tied for the league lead in wins with 39.
Offensively, the Panthers don’t have the spark they did last season, when they became the first NHL team since 1995-96 to average more than four goals per game.
The 2022-2023 Panthers rank 10th in scoring at 3.39 goals per game.
Matthew Tkachuk leads the Panthers in points (37) and assists (24) this season. Carter Verhaeghe leads the Panthers with 15 goals.
–Field Level Media