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Kraken aim to slay Penguins for second straight Saturday

Sportsnaut
Oct 29, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (24) controls the puck against Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Rickard Rakell (67) during the second period at Climate Pledge Arena. Seattle won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a week since the Pittsburgh Penguins and Seattle Kraken have met, and things have held steady going into their rematch Saturday.

The venue will change — Seattle won at home 3-1 last Saturday, with the game this weekend in Pittsburgh — but the Kraken have continued to win, while the Penguins have continued to lose.

Seattle, in its second NHL season, has won three in a row dating to the earlier game against Pittsburgh and four of its past five.

Five of Seattle’s six wins have come against teams that made the playoffs last season, and the team has scored three-plus goals in each of its past eight games.

Most recently, the Kraken downed Minnesota 4-0 on Thursday, with goaltender Martin Jones making 22 saves for the fourth shutout in franchise history. Jones has started five of the past six games — he missed one game for personal reasons — since No. 1 goaltender Philipp Grubauer sustained a lower-body injury.

Jones stopped 32 of 33 shots in the win against the Penguins last weekend.

Center Morgan Geekie has scored in three straight games and in four of the past five for Seattle, giving the team a spark from the fourth line.

“We’re having fun,” Geekie said. “It’s way more fun when you’re winning. I think we’re playing hockey at both ends of the rink.”

That line, which also includes former Penguins winger Daniel Sprong and Ryan Donato, has provided some offensive depth for Seattle.

“We all think the game the same way,” Geekie said. “We’re offensive-minded players.”

The Kraken’s Jared McCann, a former Penguins winger, was scratched Thursday and is considered day-to-day because of a lower-body injury.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is in a tailspin.

The loss at Seattle came during what has become a six-game losing streak (0-5-1). In both of their games since that loss, the Penguins have blown two-goal leads in the third period and dropped games against Boston, 6-5 in overtime, and at Buffalo, 6-3.

“We haven’t found a way to finish the game off,” Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby said.

“There’s no secret in a situation like this; it just comes down to finding a way, being determined. It’s work and finding a way to get out of it. We can’t sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.”

The Penguins’ skid comes after a 4-0-1 season start during which they scored six goals in each of the wins. The turnaround has been jarring.

“It’s a tough situation, but it’s a long season,” Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin said. “We need to control the puck the whole game. It’s not just sit back and wait. It doesn’t matter the score.”

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan hinted that confidence has become an issue.

“We have to find a way to get some swagger back in our game,” Sullivan said. “When you go through struggles like this, we’re all human beings. Everybody cares. Everybody wants to be part of the solution.”

Pittsburgh has been playing without its Nos. 3 and 4 centers, Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger, who both have upper-body injuries. Carter is considered day to day. Blueger has been practicing and is eligible to come off of long-term injured reserve for Saturday’s game.

–Field Level Media