LAS VEGAS — Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and forwards Jared McCann and Joonas Donskoi are in the Seattle Kraken lineup against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday after being removed from NHL COVID-19 protocol.
Forward Calle Jarnkrok remained in protocol.
Coach Dave Hakstol said after the morning skate that the lineup was still a work in progress for the first regular-season game in Kraken history because the four players were in protocol.
“Honestly, I mean, different curveballs come at you throughout the year,” Hakstol said. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s something that really affects the players all that much. They’re excited to play. A change or two to the lineup isn’t going to change their approach or their mentality. In that regard, I’m not concerned about the readiness and the focus of the players.
“It’s up to us to set the lineup as soon as we can but also do our due diligence to make sure we have everybody available that could possibly be available and then set that lineup and get ready to go tonight.”
The Kraken are without forwards Yanni Gourde, who had shoulder surgery July 21, and Colin Blackwell, out with a lower-body injury.
Forward Marcus Johansson said he was cleared from COVID-19 protocol before the Kraken traveled to Las Vegas on Monday.
“It’s frustrating obviously,” Johansson said. “You don’t want to miss this game. You don’t want to miss any games. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. But it’s the reality of it. It’s the protocol we have to follow. It’s not fun, but I’m glad I’m healthy and good to go.”
Defenseman Mark Giordano, named the first captain in Kraken history Monday, said he did not want to focus on the added layer of adversity for an expansion team that has not played together before, has been trying to develop chemistry and install systems in training camp and the preseason, and is now scrambling to adjust to this.
“You’ve got to look at the other side of it,” Giordano said. “I know it’s hard to do sometimes. It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, well, there’s excuses.’ But we’re not coming in tonight with built-in excuses. We’re coming in to win the game and look at the positives and look at the opportunity for guys to step in.”
The Kraken expect the best of the Golden Knights, who won the Pacific Division, finished fifth in the NHL standings and made the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season of 2017-18. Vegas won the most games (40) and tied the Colorado Avalanche for the most points (82) in the NHL last season, then made the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in four years.
“They’re going to come out fast, I think, like they always do,” Johansson said. “It’s an exciting building to play in. I think they want to probably show us that we can’t do what they did, and we want to show them the other way around, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“I think it’s a cool thing to start the first game against Vegas, and we’ve got 20 guys in there that are ready to put everything out there. Like I said, we’ve been waiting for this for a long time. You always wait for the first game of the year, but this feel extra special.”