When will he play?
The Seattle Kraken perhaps took a step in visual progress about center Yanni Gourde on Monday, returning to practice at Kraken Community Iceplex after a day off, booked on the back end of four pre-season games in five days.
They had a noticeable colored jersey absent: red. Gourde, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, potential impact Kraken player-in-the-making and forward with over 300 NHL games was wearing it until today, a color issued to injured players who are cleared to skate, but not cleared to absorb contact in drills and play in games.
Gourde upgraded from red to light blue, drawing obvious attention about the timetable of his return, the progress of his recovery, and how much he could take in practice.
Those answers, shared by Gourde and head coach Dave Hakstol, suggested patience instead of impulsiveness. When cleared to play, the 29-year old, five-year NHL veteran is a contender for a top line role on the Kraken, last season finishing fourth in points on the Lightning despite slotted behind fellow centers leading scorer Brayden Point and six-time All-Star Steven Stamkos.
Along with progress on Gourde’s status, the Kraken continued to make progress on the 23-man roster for the inaugural game in franchise history, next Tuesday against the host Vegas Golden Knights. Two more skaters were sent to the AHL – forwards Alexander True (whose final pre-season game came in his old grounds, the home of the Seattle Thunderbirds) and Carsen Twarynski, who are due to report to the Charlotte Checkers once they clear a mandated waiver claim period.
Scott Wilson, also in camp with the Kraken, is headed back to Charlotte along with a signed AHL contract.
Those remaining are a total of 28 players – 16 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders (alphabetically):
There’s one pre-season game left (tomorrow at Vancouver) for those still left with more to prove, to show their best.
FROM THE PODIUM:
Yanni Gourde, on the meaning of upgrading his jersey status in practice:
“I just need to just to get in more reps and I think when I have a red jersey, guys are super careful out there and a little too much so I need to get a little bit more bumps in and it just doesn't mean much. I mean it's just a different color. We're still working, it's a work in process to get back in shape and get back, ready to play, but we're not there yet.”
Gourde on his timeline to return:
“Honestly, I don't know. We were going to have to talk to the doctor again in a couple of weeks and see where we're at, but so far I feel pretty good.”
Gourde on if he has to tell the team to upgrade his jersey:
“(Laughs) I kind of forced them. I talked to Mike (Booi, Kraken head athletic trainer) this morning and I was like, ‘If possible I need to get a little bit more bumps’, and I know guys respect the red jersey a little too much. So I asked him if I could possibly wear a different color and he said, ‘not the white or dark blue but we're going to take a step through baby blue first, and then we'll see how it goes’.”
Gourde on how he knows his shoulder is responding:
“A little bit of everything, I mean, battles – it’s going to be a big thing with my stick battles. Getting hit, all those things - those are things that I look when I'm playing. But other than that – passing, shooting, all that stuff feels pretty good. We're going to start taking draws soon and see how that feels. But yeah, like I said, I think we're just taking steps and we're going slowly.”
Head coach Dave Hakstol on the status of Gourde:
“Our medical group has a real specific plan for him. He’s still on limited contact. He’s working really hard at everything he can do to be ready. But there’s a plan in place, and he’s still on limited contact.”
Hakstol on Gourde’s timeline to return:
“He’s out indefinitely right now. There’s a plan in place, but you get into dangerous territory if you start looking at specific dates and things like that. We have a plan in place, we’ve executed it every day, and we’re going to continue executing it each and every day.”
Hakstol on the lineup (Tuesday) at Vancouver:
“Our (defensive) pairings are still a work in progress and we still have competition there and, you'll see some of that in regard to our lineup, yet tomorrow night. Overall in terms of team defense, we're making good progress. Now, we didn't give up much at all on Saturday night, especially at five on five – we gave up next to nothing, so that's a good step. There were some specific areas that we wanted to address in our (defensive) zone play on Saturday night we were able to do that. The real trick there is to be able to do it consistently throughout a 60 minute game, and then, day after day.”
Hakstol on the roster and progress toward a “real game” situation:
Well, it's another step towards it. But looking at the roster and the lineup, I think it would be a mistake to say this is a projection of what we're going to see seven days down the road. There's more pieces and combinations that fit together that that are likely. But like I said, we have limited amount of time to try things. There's still one or two more things that we want to take a look at there's still competition at different positions. So all of those three factors are going to be at play tomorrow night.”