TAMPA — The idea of playing a team they’ve never seen before doesn’t seem to faze the Lightning.
They will take on the expansion Seattle Kraken for the first time Friday at Amalie Arena. And while the opponent at the other end of the ice will be unfamiliar, it won’t change Tampa Bay’s preparation.
Assistant coach Derek Lalonde said Wednesday the key is not overthinking things. The process stays the same.
If anything, the team will draw on the experience it has gone through already this season, playing some teams for the first time in nearly two years because of changes the league had to make to its schedule due to the pandemic.
“We’ll be prepared,” Lalonde said. “We’ll go over our scouting report thoroughly. ... It’ll be about the best game plan going forward versus Seattle, but it’ll be more about us continuing to head in the right direction with our own process.”
For forward Mathieu Joseph, the idea of playing a team the Lightning never has before is intriguing. Of course, he is very familiar with one of Seattle’s players, former Tampa Bay teammate Yanni Gourde.
“It’s going to be a little weird at first, probably,” Joseph said. “But I’m sure we’ll get used to it as the game goes on.”
Joseph has paid attention to the ups and downs the Kraken (5-12-1) have experienced so far in their inaugural season.
“You don’t really know what’s their identity yet, because it’s a bunch of players trying to play with each other (for the first time),” he said. “They’re pretty fast, obviously, but they have some skills, some nice (weapons) who can score on that team, and they have some depth.”
Joseph said it will take time for the Kraken to develop the cohesion of a more experienced team.
“There are a bunch of players coming from a little bit of everywhere, they have a different system,” he said. “... So we’re definitely going to try to use that to our advantage. But I’m excited to play against a new team, a new group of guys together, and it should be exciting.”
Veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh also is excited to see the Kraken in person for the first time. He believes part of the key to playing a new franchise is making sure the Lightning match the Kraken’s intensity.
“You’re going to try to start off on the right foot,” he said. “They’re probably going to be excited to get on the road and up to the challenge of playing us, so we have to be ready.”
Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and could play as early as Friday, Lalonde said after Wednesday’s practice.
Cernak was injured while blocking a shot in the first period of a game Nov. 9 against the Hurricanes.
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Before Tuesday’s morning skate, he worked on the ice on his own and with injured forward Gemel Smith, who is expected to be out until at least mid-December with a lower-body injury.
Cernak wore a red no-contact jersey while skating with the team during Tuesday’s skate and again at practice on Wednesday.
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