The sight of Kraken center Yanni Gourde practicing Monday in something other than a red sweater was a welcome sign to those hoping he’s back sooner than later.

Red sweaters are a strict “no contact” warning to others on the ice. It was a must for Gourde when training camp began, as he was recovering from July surgery to repair a labrum tear in his left shoulder. But Gourde, it seems, was getting tired of the hands-off treatment and is ready to crank things up a notch.

“I think when I have red on, the guys are super careful out there,” Gourde said after Monday’s session. “A little too much. I need to get a few more bumps in.”

Gourde said he’s now at a “half-contact” stage where teammates can bump him a bit during drills without taking full runs at him. 

“We’re making progress and taking steps toward gamelike situations,” he said. “I’m going in more five-on-five drills. I need to learn the system and be familiar with everything that’s going on. And that’s why I need to get as many reps as possible.”

Gourde approached the team Monday morning asking that some restrictions be eased.

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His return to play had been pegged for November or December, but it’s now hoped the earlier of those dates will be the one.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol wouldn’t speculate on when that return will happen.

“Our medical group has a real specific plan for him,” Hakstol said. “He’s still on limited contact. But he’s worked real hard at everything he can in order to be ready.”

Competition vs. Canucks

Hakstol said his team’s defensive pairings remain a work in progress heading into the preseason finale Tuesday night against the Canucks in Vancouver.

“We still have competition there, and you’ll see some of that with regards to our lineup,” he said. “Overall, in terms of team defense, we’re making good progress.”

The Kraken plans three more practices after the Canucks game, a day off Saturday and then two workouts before the Monday flight to Las Vegas for the Oct. 12 season opener against the Golden Knights. 

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One of those fighting for a job among the final pairings is Will Borgen, 24, who appeared in only 10 games with Buffalo last season after breaking his right forearm. Borgen said he has gotten back up to speed quickly in camp and has had little trouble adapting to a variety of defensive partners.

“All the (defensemen) here are really good, so it’s pretty easy to play with all of them,” he said. “I don’t mind switching up. I’ll play with whoever.”

Borgen, known as a more “defense-first” blue-liner, said adapting to the Kraken’s fast-paced transition game hasn’t been too big of a challenge when it comes to joining the offensive rush. 

“It’s a split second,” he said. “You see the forwards get a fast break, and you might be ahead of their guys on the other team. So when you get your opportunity, you go for it.”

Notes

  • Kraken forward Colin Blackwell remains listed as “day to day” because of a lower-body injury but has yet to participate in training camp. Hakstol said it’s “highly unrealistic” to expect Blackwell to begin the season with the team, given his lack of practice time. 
  • The Kraken on Monday placed center Alexander True and winger Carsen Twarynski on waivers. Both have until 11 a.m. Tuesday to clear waivers, and then they would likely be reassigned to the team’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina.