The Seattle Kraken didn’t match what Vegas did in its inaugural season — a trip to the Stanley Cup finals five years ago — but they are a Cup contender already.

Seattle debuted in 2021 and didn’t make the playoffs but now is in the playoff hunt in its second season of existence. The Kraken sit in third place in the Pacific Division with 76 points and will get a big test when they travel to Denver to play the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night.

After a disappointing homestand, Seattle has won the first three games on its four-game trip, which will conclude Sunday night.

In their first trading deadline, the Kraken were busy unloading impending unrestricted free agents, but this year, general manager Ron Francis didn’t make any deals.

“I’ve said all along, I like our group,” Francis said after the deadline passed on Friday. “We did a lot of the work kind of in the summertime, and I think we’re seeing the results on the ice with our players. And we liked the group, like I said, and felt that give them the chance to get in the playoffs, which we all want to do. I think they’ve earned that opportunity.”

One of those players added in the summer, Andre Burakovsky, helped Colorado win the Stanley Cup last year and is having a solid season in Seattle. He has 13 goals and 26 assists in 49 games but has missed 13 contests.

The Avalanche could see a familiar face in net if Philipp Grubauer gets the start. After a tough game against Toronto last week, he has a 1.79 goals-against average in two wins.

Colorado hasn’t had to worry about its offense recently, but the defense has been lacking in the last two games. The Avalanche lost 7-3 at Dallas on Saturday, three days after surrendering seven goals in a home loss to New Jersey.

The loss to Dallas came with the return of Cale Makar to the lineup. Makar had missed eight of the previous 10 games with two separate concussions but logged 22 minutes, 17 seconds of ice time against the Stars.

The Avalanche didn’t have forward Valeri Nichushkin for Saturday’s game. He didn’t travel to Dallas due to an illness but could be available against the Kraken.

Colorado coach Jared Bednar also will have to decide who will be in net against Seattle. Alexandar Georgiev started against the Stars but was pulled after allowing five goals on 19 shots. Keith Kinkaid, acquired from Boston last week, came on and stopped eight of the nine shots he faced.

Kinkaid’s addition is insurance with usual backup Pavel Francouz out with a lower-body injury. Kinkaid made his Avalanche debut wearing the yellow pads he had sported for the Bruins but said there is a more fitting set of colored pads in the works.

He also is trying to fit in with his new team.

“They haven’t told me anything, so I’m just taking it day by day,” Kinkaid said.

–Field Level Media