DENVER -- Some way to end the road trip. The Bruins enjoyed their day off here Wednesday under sunny, 83-degree skies. By dinner time, they were reaching for their touques and scarves.
We went from late summer to instant winter here in one day. Temperatures nose-dived from the 80s to the 20s as the sun set Wednesday. It was expected to stay that frigid for Thursday’s game against the Avalanche, with snow all day, then drop into the teens by night’s end. Crazy kind of swing. Wonder if the hockey will follow suit.
Five-plus things to watch before the Bruins take on the Avalanche (9 p.m. ET, NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub):
How’s Matt Grzelcyk doing? The defenseman, whose left foot absorbed a Valentin Zykov wrister Tuesday in Vegas, played through the pain. If he’s too bruised, the Bruins could call on Steven Kampfer to play with Connor Clifton.
Who’s in net? The Bruins feel good about either Tuukka Rask or Jaroslav Halak, but the morning skate at Pepsi Center, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET, will reveal Bruce Cassidy’s plans. Rask, who fell victim to cramps at the end of a 4-3 win over the Golden Knights, may get the night off to make sure nothing’s wrong. Makes sense that Halak, who has the cleanest save percentage in the league (1.000, after a 35-save shutout in Arizona on Saturday), would get a turn. Rask could then start the home opener Saturday against the Devils.
Line changes: Cassidy has been mixing up his lines so far, and in the the second period against Vegas, he had Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen on David Krejci’s wings. Cassidy said he doesn’t “want to do that every night,” but the Lineup Blender spit out an effective combination (a shift ending in a drawn penalty, then a PPG). Will the blender be whirring Thursday?
Is Joakim Nordstrom ready? Cassidy has more options on the way, with Nordstrom (undisclosed injury) close to a return. Who would sit? Brett Ritchie’s minutes went from 12:55 to 10:34 to 8:55 in his first three Bruins games. Pace is always a concern with David Backes. Lindholm took a scratch in Vegas.
Superstar line: Another major test ahead for Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy, who will likely see a lot of the Avs’ superstar line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. According to Natural Stat Trick, Chara-McAvoy is one of five heavy-usage pairs (40 minutes or more at 5-on-5) to not be on the ice for a goal allowed. Behind that: they have the fifth-highest expected goals allowed (1.87) of the 28 pairs who have played as many even-strength minutes. That suggests they’ve been bailed out a bit by their goalies. They have been outchanced, 24-21. They take on the toughest matchups in the NHL, but they would like to turn these numbers around ... while keeping pucks out of the net.
- Bonus: A few local connections, other than offseason Denver resident Brandon Carlo and Denver U. alum Danton Heinen ... The Avs’ assistant GM is Craig Bllington, who spent two of his 21 pro seasons in Boston (1994-96) as a backup to Blaine Lacher. Also, Ron Grahame, the goaltender the Bruins traded in 1978 for the first-round pick that became Ray Bourque, retired as DU athletics director on Dec. 1. ... Rantanen has three goals and four points in the Avs (2-0-0) first two games ... Oh, and Nazem Kadri plays here now.