Yanni Gourde ready to face hometown team as Wright's new linemate

San Jose Sharks v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 23: Yanni Gourde #37 of the Seattle Kraken looks on during the second period against the San Jose Sharks at Climate Pledge Arena on November 23, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Getty Images

Yanni Gourde will have a full plate tonight. 

Emotion will be an existent ingredient, no matter where he plays. He will need that along with experience, playing the wing with Shane Wright and Oliver Bjorkstrand ahead of a 7pm PT puck drop (93.3 KJR-FM / Kraken Audio Network) between the Seattle Kraken and Montreal Canadiens. 

Gourde will be facing the team he grew up rooting for, Alexei Kovalev being among his favorite players. He also tends to save productive games for this type of matchup, burying eight goals in 16 career meetings against Montreal. 

“Those games are fun and watching (Montreal) growing up makes it extra special,” said Gourde. 

His linemate, Wright, will be making a suggested emotional return against Montreal. For starters, it will be Wright’s first game back in the NHL since a recall from a two-week AHL conditioning stint, maxed out with a torrid pace of four goals in five games. 

Then there are eyeballs on this one for another reason: Wright facing Montreal, the first team who passed him in the draft (after months of speculation as Wright projected to go first), for Juraj Slafkovsky – though that part has been muted from the Wright camp. 

Wright will face Slafkovsky for the first time since the draft. Gourde said the key to success with Wright is the technical talk they’ll have before the game. 

“Make sure he’s comfortable out there,” Gourde said. “Make sure he feels good and what he has to do, knows the way I want to play. Those are things you communicate before the game so when the game comes and those plays happen, he knows exactly what to do and how I expect him to make the play.” 

Head coach Dave Hakstol, who said Martin Jones (9-1 career against Montreal) will start in net tonight, likes the complement of Gourde’s hyperactive ingredient for Wright’s responsibilities, still only seven games into an NHL career with one assist. 

“(Gourde’s) versatile,” said Hakstol, referencing Gourde’s ability to play the wing and center. 

“We need good leadership with Gourde-o tonight. We need him to play well within what he does well. He'll bring a lot of leadership, effort, energy, and intensity to that line.”

Masked by the seven straight wins the Kraken ripped off before submitting to a 5-1 loss to Florida on Saturday, the penalty kill has taken a few bumps: they’re at a 51% efficiency rate over the last nine games, giving up three power play goals against the Panthers. 

Gourde said there will be important attention to structure and detail in preventing the Canadiens, whose power play is 29th in the NHL at 17.1 percent, to set up in the first place.

“I think it starts with down the ice pressure,” said Gourde.

Montreal, who will be playing in their fourth game in six nights, did not skate this morning after a late arrival into Seattle following a wild and chaotic 7-6 overtime loss, Monday night at Vancouver. 

Nick Suzuki leads the Canadiens with 28 points in 25 games. He and Cole Caufield are tied for the team lead with 14 goals. 




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