On the first day of the NHL’s free agency signing period this summer, the Seattle Kraken inked forward Andre Burakovsky, defenseman Justin Schultz and goaltender Martin Jones to contracts.
It’s hard to imagine where the Kraken would be without that trio as they prepare to play host to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
Burakovsky leads the Kraken in scoring with 15 points through 17 games (four goals, 11 assists).
Jones has been a workhorse since No. 1 goalie Philipp Grubauer got injured, going 8-4-2 with a 2.34 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage overall.
Schultz has been a reliable second-pairing defender, and he scored twice, including the overtime winner, in Seattle’s 3-2 victory over the visiting New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Those are three of the reasons the second-year Kraken enter Saturday just two points behind Los Angeles for second place in the Pacific Division with three games in hand. Seattle is 6-1-1 in its past eight games.
“That’s a good (Rangers) team. … I’ve played them a lot the last few years, and (they have) like a lot of skill and our team did a good job all night battling through,” said Schultz, who spent the previous 6 1/2 seasons with Pittsburgh and Washington, two of New York’s Metropolitan Division rivals. “It wasn’t going our way and just finding a way to get two points. ‘Jonesy’ was huge again in net and is giving us a chance to win every night.”
Kraken forward Jared McCann agreed regarding Jones’ impact.
“Big saves. He’s been doing it all season for us,” McCann said. “We’re lucky to have him.”
Jones, who has started 10 of the past 11 games, was quick to credit his teammates.
“Really good job in front of the net,” Jones said. “I’ve been able to see pucks, (they’ve been) picking up sticks. There hasn’t really been a lot of screen and deflection goals.”
Grubauer, who has been out since Oct. 21 due to a lower-body injury, was activated Friday.
“One step at a time. He’s got (some) full practices in,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said of Grubauer returning to action. “He’s obviously making really good progress.”
The Kings will be playing the second half of a back-to-back after taking a 4-1 loss to the host Vancouver Canucks on Friday.
Blake Lizotte scored the lone goal for the Kings, and goalie Jonathan Quick made 21 saves.
The Kings are 1-2-0 on their four-game trip that wraps up Saturday.
“For as much as you’d like to always keep your team together and not separate it, I thought there were some individuals that let us down tonight rather than the group as a whole,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “Sometimes you have to play the game a certain way and it might not be the way you like it.
“It might be ugly, it might be grinding, it might not be cute, but that’s the way you have to play it, and we had some that couldn’t accept that or didn’t want to, and that cost us.”
The Saturday contest will be the second meeting between the Kraken and Kings this season. Jones made 26 saves in a 4-1 victory on Oct. 13 in Los Angeles, where he started his NHL career in 2013-14.
–Field Level Media