TAMPA — The Lightning have a recent history with Corey Perry.
From their encounters with him the past two seasons in the Stanley Cup final, they got a good dose of how tough the 16-year veteran forward is to play against. He finds equal success getting to the net and getting under his opponent’s skin.
When the Lightning needed a new supply of toughness and talent after hard-nosed, head-down forwards Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow went elsewhere after last season, they had the best kind of scouting report on Perry.
“He’s a little rat, I can say that,” said smiling forward Pat Maroon, who played with Perry for five seasons in Anaheim. “He’s fun to watch. He’s a high-end, skilled power forward who is dangerous around the ice. … I think if you put him with any unit, he’s going to succeed.”
Perry was with the Canadiens last season and in the Cup final tangled with Nikita Kucherov in Game 2. By Game 4, Perry had agitated normally mild-mannered goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy enough to prompt an elbow from him when Perry ventured too far into the crease.
Then Perry signed a two-year, $2 million free agent deal with the Lightning in late July. And when he met his new teammates, they were already joking about some of those extracurricular activities.
“You get the handshake out of the way and you just start becoming friends and teammates, and starting that bond,” Perry said.
Enter “The Worm,” a nickname Perry has earned for his ability to slide through traffic toward the net and his knack for being a nuisance to opponents.
“He said somebody, I think it was actually (defenseman Zach Bogosian) two years ago, took a whack, a big slash at him,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “And we were laughing about it the first day we all met each other. So that’s the nature of competitiveness in all of us. And at the end of the day, you’re just glad that he’s on your side.”
Over the course of his career, Perry, 36, has morphed from a scorer — he won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2010-11 with 50 goals and averaged 34 goals and 70 points from 2008-09 to 2013-14 — to a player who can be relied on to do the little things it takes to win. And after losing to the Lightning in the past two Cup finals — he was with the Stars in 2019-20 — he can be a key cog to a third straight Cup title for Tampa Bay.
“There’s a lot of experience on this team, but you can never have too much depth,” Perry said. “I’m just coming in here and just going to play my game and see what happens and go from there, let the chips fall where they fall. And that’s kind of what I’ve done the last couple seasons. Just go in, do your thing and just let it be on the ice.”
Perry won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2006-07, his second season in the league. He won the Hart Trophy in 2010-11.
“He’s good for the young players and me as well. He’s the guy that you can learn from,” Kucherov said. “He’s won everything. Having that guy is huge, especially when playoff time comes in.”
In the first training camp practice Thursday, the Lightning paired Perry with youngsters Ross Colton and Mathieu Joseph to make up what could be the rebuilt third line.
“When you talk about the identity of that third line, a lot of it was forechecking and putting the puck there and outnumbering, battling, competing and just almost willing it into the net at times,” McDonagh said. “So if there’s a guy that has a nose around the net — we’ve seen it over the handful years in his career scoring goals in the tight areas — it’s Corey Perry.
“I think it bodes well for us that he’s going to have that hunger, just like our group, to want to do something special again, and he’s excited to be with us, and we know the potential that’s there.”
Coach Jon Cooper calls Perry a “glue guy,” someone who can bring players together and make those around him better.
“He has a presence on the ice,” Cooper said. “And regardless if you’ve been in the league 10 years or one year, you feel it out there. And it’s a positive presence. You just know these veterans that have been around, instant chemistry in the room and on the ice. I see why A) he’s still playing and B) why he’s been in the Stanley Cup final two years in a row of late. We couldn’t be happier to have him on our side.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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