Win a Stanley Cup, secure the bag in free agency, move to a new place, come back, and see familiar faces:
The last four months for Andre Burakovsky have been a wild ride.
The first year Kraken forward, leaving the Colorado Avalanche in July to sign a multi-year deal with the Kraken in free agency, will face his former teammates for the first time tonight in a 6pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) battle at Ball Arena, opening a brief two-game road swing.
“Nice to be back, good seeing all the guys and went to dinner with a few of them yesterday,” said Burakovsky. “It still feels like home.”
It’s understandable the emotions are still raw. Burakovsky, who is awaiting the finish of his new home in Bellevue in his first year of a five-year pact, helped resurrect the Avalanche franchise with a career-high 22 goals last season, en route to their first Stanley Cup since their president of hockey operations Joe Sakic was the team’s top line center in 2000-01.
As if the morning couldn’t get any more emotional, he wasn’t able to collect his Stanley Cup ring from the team since leaving. The Avalanche, in similar stride with Yanni Gourde last season, held a brief ceremony for Burakovsky before he took the ice for morning skate.
“It was hard to have morning skate after that ceremony,” said Burakovsky. “Like I said, I’m excited to get back here and play in front of these fans and compete against all the guys.”
He’s got no problems turning friends into game time enemies.
“Maybe slash Mikko (Rantanen) in the back of the leg a little bit,” said Burakovsky.
Another player changing sides, though two years ago, will start in net. Philipp Grubauer is searching for his first win of the season.
“We need that as a backbone for our group,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Coming into this building, there’s a little bit of offense coming at us. We just have to be sound, stable and have Grubie be the anchor for us.”
That offense hasn’t skipped a beat. The Avalanche, 49-5-6 over their last 60 home games, and have scored 17 goals in their first four games. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is out 12 weeks following knee surgery and top pair defenseman Devon Toews will miss tonight’s game, but a loaded top line of Artturi Lehkonen, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen have combined for 21 points in the first four games.
“It’s hard to take away your most productive line and spread it out,” head coach Jared Bednar said.
The Avalanche, who own the top power play in the NHL (53.8%), will start Pavel Francouz in net.