Forgive Eeli Tolvanen if he wasn’t feeling too nostalgic Thursday.
The Seattle Kraken forward received a tribute on the video board in the first period of his first game back in Nashville since being picked up off waivers from the Predators in December. The teams will complete their two-game series in Nashville Saturday afternoon.
A first-round pick by Nashville in 2017, Tolvanen has found success in Seattle, scoring 13 goals and adding 10 assists in 37 games.
But rather than reflect, he preferred to talk about the playoff implications of the mini-series.
“It’s kind of big for both of these teams,” Tolvanen said. “I feel like it’s going to be kind of like a playoff match. … They’re playing for a playoff spot, and we’re still playing for a playoff spot. So, it’s going to be a big two games.”
Thursday’s game felt like a postseason contest, with the Predators winning 2-1 in a shootout.
The Kraken (39-24-8, 86 points) are currently atop the Western Conference’s wild-card standings, while the Predators (36-26-8, 80 points) are trying to track down Winnipeg, which has 85 points, for the second and final wild-card berth. Nashville has three games in hand on the Jets and one on the Kraken.
“Yeah, all we can do is continue to play hard like we are and win hockey games, kind of let the chips fall where they may,” Predators defenseman Tyson Barrie said. “We’re proud of the work we’re putting in here, and you never know where it can take you.”
Goaltender Juuse Saros made 27 saves and didn’t allow a goal in the shootout and Kiefer Sherwood scored in regulation for the Predators, who have won two straight and are 5-2-1 over their past eight games.
“We’ve had great goaltending all year long,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “(Saros) is playing really well. … You need good goaltending to win. You look at any team that’s in the playoffs. It’s one of the most important positions in the game. When you have solid goaltending, it gives you a chance every night.”
Daniel Sprong scored for Seattle, which had a six-game road winning streak snapped. Goalie Joey Daccord made 23 saves in his second straight start since being called up on an emergency basis from AHL affiliate Coachella Valley because Philipp Grubauer has been suffering from a non-COVID illness.
“I think we had our opportunities,” said the Kraken’s Morgan Geekie, who assisted on Sprong’s goal for a fourth line that has scored four of the team’s past five regulation goals. “You know, they’re a good team over there and fighting just as much as we are. I think there are some good things we can take out of Thursday and some things we can learn from.”
As for those lessons, Geekie sounded like a schoolteacher.
“Minimize some of their Grade-A chances and make them into some Bs and Cs,” Geekie said.
Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said he envisions more of the same Saturday.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the extra point (Thursday), but we’ve got to turn the page quickly and look at a couple of areas to be a little bit better in, and pretty much expect a very similar game,” Hakstol said. “These two teams are going to be fighting hard for points on Saturday afternoon.”