There was a time when a team may look past an expansion franchise, figuring to pick up an easy two points. The Vegas Golden Knights put an end to that, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 to cap their inaugural season.
Fast forward to this season and the Buffalo Sabres have additional reasons not to look past the fledgling Kraken when they meet for the first time Thursday night at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.
The Sabres, who will be wrapping up a four-game West Coast trip, have lost two games in a row in regulation for the first time this season. That includes a 5-3 loss Tuesday at San Jose against a Sharks team that was missing seven players and coach Bob Boughner because of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols.
“We didn’t play to our identity, so a really big learning lesson because that was a very winnable game,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We have a room of competitive guys that didn’t compete hard enough.”
Jeff Skinner scored twice and Vinnie Hinostroza had two assists in the loss as the Sabres were without leading scorer Victor Olofsson, who suffered a soft-tissue injury in practice Monday.
Still, to lose to shorthanded San Jose?
“We know what they’re going through,” Skinner said of the Sharks. “They’re going through a lot of adversity and a lot of guys were excited to get the opportunity and we knew they were going to come out hard. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to match that.
“If we’re going to be a good team we’re going to have to learn how to win on the road. We’re going to have to learn to weather storms in tough buildings. Unfortunately, (Tuesday) we weren’t able to do that.”
The Sabres opened the trip with a 4-3 overtime victory last Thursday at Anaheim after blowing a three-goal lead, then blew a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 loss Sunday at Los Angeles.
“It’s kind of awful, frankly,” Sabres defenseman Robert Hagg said. “And I think the whole road trip hasn’t been as good as we want it to. And especially (Tuesday), we’re getting outworked, it’s simple as that.
“We did good at home. We outworked teams and we got result with it. But now it seems like we think we’re better than what we are right now. And we just have to go back to the basics and work for each other and work harder and outwork teams … we’ve got to learn from it and move on. And we have a new game here (Thursday). If we get four points out of this road trip, it’s great.”
The Kraken return home after a 5-2 loss Monday at Edmonton. It was Seattle’s second consecutive loss, following a 3-1 loss at home to the New York Rangers the previous night.
“It’s frustrating,” Kraken forward Jaden Schwartz said. “(Sunday’s game) was right there for us and so was (Monday’s). There were opportunities to start and we had a lot of chances, so we just got to find ways to put them in the back of the net.”
The Kraken were without Jared McCann, their leading point producer, in both games because he was in the COVID-19 protocols for the second time this season. As of Wednesday night he remained in the COVID-19 protocols.
“We played hard and we were getting our chances,” Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak said. “We just have to stick to our game.”
–Field Level Media