Yanni Gourde, who was playing in the East Coast Hockey League in 2014, has battled his way to a prominent role in the NHL, and the gritty forward looks to continue his breakout season when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. Gourde scored twice on rebounds in Tampa Bay’s 6-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday and boasts eight goals to go along with 10 assists.
“It takes a lot of will and skill to be around the net like that, and (Gourde is) definitely willing to do that,” Lightning left wing Chris Kunitz told reporters. “He’s scored some big goals for us.” Gourde has provided a boost of energy and owns three points in two games since moving to center on the third line while Tampa Bay hopes it can continue to get solid secondary scoring when they take on the struggling Avalanche. Colorado has lost all three games in December and went 1-4-0 on its just-completed homestand after suffering a 4-2 defeat Tuesday against the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres. “It was unfortunate because we were good at home all year, and we had four games here where we couldn’t get the job done,” Avalanche rookie center Alex Kerfoot told reporters. “We’re going on the road now. We have to find a way to turn it around.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Altitude (Colorado), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE (12-12-2): Nathan MacKinnon scored both goals on the power play Tuesday and has six points (three goals) in the past five games to increase his team-leading total to 31 while linemate Mikko Rantanen is next with 22. Kerfoot notched a pair of assists to tie defenseman Tyson Barrie for third on the team with 20 points and Colorado will get captain Gabriel Landeskog (17) back Thursday after he served a four-game suspension. The Avalanche have scored six of their 10 goals in the last five games on the power play and are at 20 percent for the season.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (19-6-2): Nikita Kucherov (team-high 19 goals) leads the NHL with 40 points and has recorded at least one in four consecutive contests (six total) after posting two assists in Tuesday’s victory. Captain Steven Stamkos has cooled off a bit with three of his 38 points in the last eight games and linemate Vladislav Namestnikov caught him for second on the team in goals with his 11th on Tuesday. Jake Dotchin (undisclosed) is close to returning to the lineup and fellow defenseman Braydon Coburn (lower-body) is questionable after missing the last two games.
1. Colorado F Colin Wilson (five points, 17 contests) returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing three games with a lower-body injury.
2. Tampa Bay RW Cory Conacher has registered at least a point in all three games he has played in the NHL this season.
3. The Avalanche has gained at least a point in their last three games (2-0-1) in Tampa Bay, including a 4-0 victory last season.
PREDICTION: Lightning 5, Avalanche 2