Yanni Gourde knew what was first on the agenda when coming back to Tampa Bay.
Dinner with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli on Monday night was on the menu. No surprise, given the fact both players went through the fire of back-to-back Stanley Cup titles from 2020-21.
They will be enemies again tonight, 4pm PT when the Seattle Kraken visit the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. But it didn’t stop Gourde from appreciating the experience, where he earned two Stanley Cup rings and a heap of praise for eight years in the organization, coming up through the AHL.
“It’s always going to be a special place for me and my family,” Gourde said. “It’s special walking in this building and seeing a lot of familiar faces.”
He’s done this exercise before, last year on much more emotional terms. Gourde returned to Tampa Bay with the Kraken, collecting his second Stanley Cup ring before parting ways in a quiet morning ceremony with his former teammates. The Kraken lost that night, 3-0 and Gourde since has moved on with his visions of being a centrifugal force for a team that is surprising the NHL at 16-8-3 and tied for second in the Pacific Division, at 32 percent of the way through the season.
With battle lines drawn again, Gourde knows what he’ll be up against.
“We can’t turn the puck over against that team,” said Gourde. “You’ve got to stay away from an easy way. You have to give them a hard game. They have to work for every starting chance they get.”
Gourde was complimentary toward a Tampa Bay team, three-peat winners of the Eastern Conference who have gone 10-3 in the last 13 games and found their rhythm after a 4-1 win last Saturday over Florida, when Steven Stamkos scored a goal and extended his point streak to 13 straight games.
Their head coach Jon Cooper volleyed back the praise, fully aware of the Kraken progress, also demanding respect on their name. He said it started with the comparisons last year to the Vegas Golden Knights, refuting any opportunity to compare them.
“I think (Seattle) knew exactly what they were doing,” said Cooper. “And it’s turned into what they have now – which is a playoff caliber team that’s doing what expansion teams should do. It’s start, build a base, find out what you have, and continue to build from there.”
“I don’t look at them as anything but a success story from my end, if they keep this going. It’s pretty darn good for them. I like where they’re trending.”
Philipp Grubauer will start in net for the Kraken, 4-2-1 in eight career games with a .916 save percentage against the Lightning.
Eeli Tolvanen, who arrived on Tuesday morning after being claimed off waivers by the Kraken, participated in morning skate with his new jersey number 20, but is expected to rest tonight. The Kraken are expected to suit up a similar lineup to Sunday’s 5-2 win at Florida.
PROJECTED KRAKEN LINEUP, DEC. 13 AT TAMPA BAY: