Barely a season and a half into their existence, the Seattle Kraken are about to face their third different Vancouver Canucks head coach.
They’re still looking for the first win against any of them.
The Kraken will look to snap that streak Wednesday night when they play host to the Canucks and new coach Rick Tocchet.
Tocchet, hired Sunday to replace Bruce Boudreau after the Canucks struggled to an 18-25-3 start, made his debut behind the Vancouver bench Tuesday night in a 5-2 home victory against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Andrei Kuzmenko scored twice in the second period, the Canucks broke away from a 2-2 tie with goals 34 seconds apart midway through the third, and Bo Horvat added a short-handed empty-netter to equal his career high with his 31st goal of the season.
The Canucks, who outshot Chicago 48-14, snapped a three-game skid and won for just the third time in the past 13 games.
“You like the result, but to me the hard part is to do it again,” Tocchet said. “You got to (line) change again hard, you got to track hard. It’s hard to win. You have to embrace the hardness. … And, I shouldn’t say it’s easy to do one game, but it’s hard to keep doing this stuff. And it’s just like a habit. You got to keep doing it.”
Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson knew what to expect after playing under Tocchet in Arizona from 2017-21.
“He’s a high-energy guy and brings a lot of structure,” Ekman-Larsson said. “He’s going to have a lot of rules and be hard on us. (Tocchet) wants us to play with a lot of speed and work harder and smarter. I think it’s going to be a lot of skating and not standing still as much. I think that’s going to benefit our group.”
While the Canucks have struggle mightily of late, the Kraken are 9-2-1 in January.
They were knocked out of a first-place tie atop the Pacific Division with a 2-1 shootout loss to the visiting Colorado Avalanche, the defending Stanley Cup champion, on Saturday night.
“We were in the battle for 65-plus minutes,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “Obviously, it’s disappointing when you don’t win … but our effort, our work level and battle was good throughout the hockey game.”
Now about beating the Canucks …
In their inaugural season, the Kraken went 0-4-0 against Vancouver coaches Travis Green and Boudreau.
Seattle is 0-1-1 vs. the Canucks this season, losing 5-4 at home on Oct. 27 and 6-5 in a shootout on Dec. 22 in Vancouver. The Canucks rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit in the latter contest as Elias Pettersson had two goals and three assists and netted the winner in the shootout.
Hakstol said he expects another inspired effort from the Canucks in Tocchet’s first road game.
“I’m sure they’ll tweak and change some things coming in, but I wouldn’t expect a wholesale change,” Hakstol said. “What I expect is a great effort out of their team (Wednesday) night with whatever structure they’re moving toward.”
Andre Burakovsky, the Kraken’s leading scorer with 38 points, was a late scratch against Colorado. Hakstol said Burakovsky would be a game-time decision on Wednesday, the same as fellow forwards Yanni Gourde and Alex Wennberg. All three have undisclosed injuries.