NHL: Blues, Kraken clash with sights set on next season

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The St. Louis Blues stayed in the Western Conference wild-card race until the final week of the regular season.

But they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Friday, so now they will be fully focused on building momentum for the future when they face the visiting Seattle Kraken on Sunday afternoon.

The Blues (42-33-5, 89 points) hope to use this season’s strong finish as a springboard to better things in 2024-25. They have gone 10-4-2 in their past 16 games despite falling 5-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

“I thought we’ve had a pretty good stretch here,” St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko said. “I don’t know exactly what our record’s been, but we’ve definitely been playing well, I think. Maybe there’s a couple we would like to have back, but at the same time, we’ve been playing some good hockey and I think it’s good looking forward. We’ve got a good group in here.”

Blues center Robert Thomas believes the team showed character while persevering through a campaign that included a mid-season coaching change from Craig Berube to Drew Bannister.

“Us guys in here, no matter what the odds are or where we’re at in the season, we never gave up,” Thomas said. “We won’t give up. That’s what I’m taking away from this.”

Bannister has given his younger players plenty of playing time down the stretch to expedite the team’s retooling. Rookie forward Zack Bolduc has scored a goal in three straight games.

The Kraken (33-33-13, 79 points) also fell short of the playoffs this season. After an eight-game winless streak (0-6-2) from March 8-24 did critical damage to its postseason chances, Seattle got back on track by going 5-2-0 in its next seven contests.

But the Kraken are coming off a 3-1 loss against the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Seattle coach Dave Hakstol appreciated how his team gave a spirited effort despite having nothing to play for.

“That’s a question that we’ve had to answer over the last two weeks,” Hakstol said. “It’s a hard pill to swallow when you find yourself on the wrong side of the line in terms of the playoffs.

“Just take one look at our guys wanting to win a hockey game. We have to continue that mentality.”

After sending young forwards Shane Wright, Logan Morrison and Ryan Winterton to Coachella Valley of the AHL to play on, the Kraken put veterans Kailer Yamamoto and Tomas Tatar back into the lineup on Saturday following lengthy absences.

Yamamoto hadn’t played since March 24, while Tatar had been out since April 3. Yamamoto scored Seattle’s only goal against Dallas.

“Yeah, it was a bit different playing a game,” Yamamoto said. “You’re sitting for that long, then come back and stuff. … Just trying to play my own game, be comfortable coming back in. It’s fun to get back walking in with guys and get on the ice with them.”

Philipp Grubauer started in goal against the Stars, so Seattle is likely to come back with Joey Daccord on Sunday.

Joel Hofer should be in net for St. Louis.

Sunday marks the third and final meeting between the teams this season. The Blues are 2-0 against the Kraken.

–Field Level Media

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