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Kraken have ‘nothing to lose’ entering Monday’s Game 7 vs. Stars

The Seattle Kraken’s Eeli Tolvanen, right, scores past Dallas Stars goalie Jake Oettinger on Saturday at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.  (Tribune News Service)
By Geoff Baker and </p><p>Kate Shefte Seattle Times

Kraken veteran Jordan Eberle feels that a squad headed for its second Game 7 in as many playoff rounds now has a better idea of what to expect in such do-or-die games.

“We have to just go for it, we have nothing to lose,” Eberle said. “We have to have that same approach in Game 7. Obviously, we’ve been through it before, and we just have to do it again.”

Fellow Kraken veteran Yanni Gourde feels the team has “absolutely” learned a lot from its first 13 playoff games and can only benefit from that experience come Monday night in Dallas.

“It’s a Game 7, who knows what’s going to happen,” he said. “But with Game 7, we’re giving ourselves a chance, and we’re excited about the challenge and the opportunity to do it one more time and go and get a win on the road.

“We’ve got to just think about the first few shifts and not look too far ahead.”

The Kraken are the sixth franchise in NHL history to require a Game 7 in each of their first two playoff series. They joined the Wild (2003), Sharks (1994, 1995), North Stars (1968), Kings (1968, 1969) and Blues (1968).

Gourde’s goal and assist in Game 6 gave him eight points in his past seven playoff games dating to Game 7 against Colorado on April 30. This was his eighth playoff multipoint game of his career and third of this postseason.

He feels the Kraken have grown as a team simply in the way they’ve defended in front of netminder Philipp Grubauer.

“It’s one thing to do it in the regular season but we’ve been doing it in the playoffs – blocking shot lanes for pucks, having some composure and some poise in the defensive zone,” Gourde said. “You see how much we’ve grown as a team, as a group throughout these playoffs and it’s been a lot of fun to see it out of everyone.”

Kraken defenseman Adam Larsson had a huge block in the dying seconds of the first period with his team ahead 2-1 and killing off a penalty. The puck came loose to prolific Dallas scorer Roope Hintz, but Larsson tied up his stick and got his body in front of a partial shot to keep the puck out.

A goal by Hintz might have been a huge momentum turner in a period dominated by the Kraken, who outshot the Stars 16-5. Instead, the Kraken carried their lead to intermission and opened it up further once the second period began.

McCann finds a new home

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol shuffled some lines before this one, bumping 40-goal scorer Jared McCann up to a top trio on right wing alongside Jaden Schwartz and Alex Wennberg.

Morgan Geekie had been the right wing on that line but moved down to the fourth unit with Ryan Donato and Brandon Tanev.

“I liked his game in Game 5,” Hakstol said before Saturday’s contest. “Game 4, that’s a tough level and pace to jump into. He was ready to do it, but we liked the rhythm that we had going with the groups we were using and we felt he’d be able to add to that.”

McCann started Game 5 on the fourth line but was bumped up to the Schwartz and Wennberg trio near the end of the first period. He wound up getting some shots and a second-period goal.

“We pushed him into a spot he’d been in before, and he elevated his game,” Hakstol said. “And he’s going to have to continue to do that for us.”

McCann played just more than 15 minutes in Game 6 – about a minute shy of his season average – including four minutes on special teams. He recorded three shots on goal, and his line recorded a pair of assists.

Sprong not expected back for Game 7

Daniel Sprong didn’t appear in Game 6 at Climate Pledge Arena and isn’t projected to return in time for Game 7. He’s day to day and skating, but Hakstol doesn’t expect him to be ready by Monday night’s series finale in Dallas.

Sprong slowly made his way back to the bench after contact with the boards in Game 3 and hasn’t played since.

McCann returned from injury and entered the lineup in Sprong’s place in Game 4.