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Jared McCann, Joonas Donskoi play key roles in Kraken opener after clearing COVID-19 protocol
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Jared McCann, Joonas Donskoi play key roles in Kraken opener after clearing COVID-19 protocol

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Kraken Golden Knights Hockey

Seattle right wing Joonas Donskoi skates with the puck under pressure from Vegas' Alex Pietrangelo during the third period of the Golden Knights' 4-3 win over the Kraken to open the season, Oct. 12, 2021, in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — A tumultuous 24-hour period of roster shuffling and finger-crossing by the Kraken ended just before game time Tuesday night with three additional regulars returning from COVID-19 protocol in time for the franchise opener.

Kraken forwards Jared McCann and Joonas Donskoi and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak cleared protocol Tuesday and boarded a flight, where they joined teammates in time for pregame warm-ups at T-Mobile Arena ahead of facing the Vegas Golden Knights. Forward Marcus Johansson had already cleared Monday and flown to Las Vegas with the team, leaving only winger Calle Jarnkrok still in a 10-day protocol for players demonstrating COVID-19 symptoms.

To make room for the three latecomers, the Kraken pulled forwards Alexander True and Kole Lind and defenseman Dennis Cholowski from the roster before game time.

McCann made his presence felt in the second period, scoring the Kraken’s second goal within a span of 1:12, as he thrust the puck at the Vegas net and it found its way through traffic to beat goalie Robin Lehner. Donskoi assisted on the Kraken’s first goal, with the pair of quick strikes bringing the team back from a 3-0 deficit and making a game of it.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol had said after Tuesday’s morning skate that his lineup remained “a work in progress” that would continue until the team knew whether the players could clear and travel in time.

Among a group of replacements called in from all parts of the country was former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Barre-Boulet, 24, who was claimed off waivers Monday. He arrived Tuesday but not in time for the morning skate.

Kraken captain Mark Giordano said despite the potential of missing several regulars, the team was sticking to pregame routines as best it could.

“Worrying about it isn’t going to do much for now,” he said.

Giordano said the rash of players placed in protocol also hadn’t changed much on a practical level. Players, he said, were constantly wearing masks and trying to abide by safety rules.

“This is just another reminder to us all that this virus is not over by a long shot,” Giordano said. “You just hope for the safety of everyone involved, and hopefully everyone is OK and able to move on, and we look to move forward.”

Johansson was announced as being in COVID-19 protocol Monday morning but had cleared by that afternoon and was added to the roster. He said did not test positive but was added as a close contact with someone who had.

“I’ve been tested the whole time,” he said. “I tested out of the protocol, and now I’m good to go. It’s very relieving.”

Fitzhugh tests positive, misses opener

Another COVID-19 casualty within the team’s ranks was radio play-by-play broadcaster Everett Fitzhugh, who team sources indicated had tested positive and was symptomatic.

Fitzhugh remained in Seattle, unable to make his historic debut as the first Black play-by-play announcer to call a regular-season game for an NHL team.

ROOT Sports play-by-play announcer John Forslund and analyst JT Brown called the game instead on KJR-AM. It isn’t known when Fitzhugh will return, though he is expected to miss multiple games.

Kraken games a hot ticket

New York-based TicketiQ, which uses proprietary software to track 90%t of tickets listed on the secondary market, said Kraken seats for all 82 games this season are going for the second-priciest amount of any NHL team at $303 on average — trailing only the $309 for Toronto Maple Leafs games.

By comparison, tickets to games played by the first-year Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 averaged $196, making Kraken seats the highest priced for any NHL expansion team ever.

Visiting fans certainly appeared to be snatching up secondary market seats here for the T-Mobile Arena opener, with Kraken jerseys and caps visible throughout the day along the Las Vegas Strip. Kraken fans were also highly visible in number in the plaza outside the arena pregame, where live entertainment lent a festive atmosphere as thousands mingled.

The no-fee secondary ticket website TickPick said Kraken fans were traveling “strongly” with 22% of all its sales for Tuesday night’s game made to buyers with a Washington Zip code or Vancouver, British Columbia, postal code. The average price for the opening game on TickPick was $242 while the “get in” cheapest list price was $120 — 69% higher than the next-priciest Vegas home game listed.

Roster breakdowns

Figures released Tuesday by the NHL showed 721 players on official rosters turned in by Monday’s afternoon deadline. Canada once again led all nations with 310 players (43%) — the Edmonton Oilers having the most players from any one country on their roster with 16 Canadians.

The U.S. had 190 players on rosters, which equates to 26.4%.

The Kraken roster had the second-most Canadians at 15. It also had three players each from the U.S. and Sweden and one apiece from Germany and Finland.

One Kraken player from Denmark, center Alexander True, logged plenty of air mileage and enjoyed a brief 24-hour stint on the roster until McCann, Donskoi and Oleksiak returned from COVID-19 protocol.

True, best known locally for his junior days with the Seattle Thunderbirds — where he scored the WHL championship-clinching goal in overtime in 2017 — had already reported to the team’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, when the Kraken phoned him Monday telling him to fly to Las Vegas.

After Tuesday’s morning skate, True admitted the trek was a little tougher than when he played in the San Jose Sharks organization, where the NHL and AHL clubs share facilities.

“It was easy for me last season when I was in San Jose, because you’d just go through a different door,” he said. “And now this, you’ve got to fly across the country, so it’s a little different.”

Now he’ll have to do it over again back the other way without playing a shift.

Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.

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