Two of the NHL's best lines for the past few years will square off tonight when the Colorado Avalanche hosts the Boston Bruins at Pepsi Center.
The Avs' top trio of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen was first put together in 2017-18 and the club's top unit has recorded 513 points since the start of that season. The Bruins are led by Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastranak, and that line has posted 497 points in the same time span.
"It is a great line, obviously they have been for many years now so it is going to be a fun matchup if we play against them, if we match against them," Rantanen said of Boston's line. "I think if we win our matchup, we have a good chance to win the game, obviously because it is their best line and stuff. We have to be good defensively but not be too afraid to go on offense."
Colorado and Boston faced off twice last year, and both meetings saw the MacKinnon and Bergeron-centered lines matched up with each other for much of the contest.
Video: Rantanen on the upcoming game against Boston
The first matchup of the 2018-19 campaign was a 6-3 Avalanche victory at Pepsi Center, a game in which Rantanen had three points (one goal, two assists), MacKinnon recorded a goal and assist and Landeskog also tallied. For Boston, Bergeron had an assist and Pastranak scored and added a helper.
In the rematch in Boston on Feb. 10, the Bruins earned a 2-1 overtime win when Marchand tallied in the extra frame with an assist from Bergeron. MacKinnon scored for Colorado in the outing, and Landeskog recorded a helper on the marker.
"That line is really, really good. They have been good for many years now," said Rantanen. "I remember we had last year, the two times we played them it was good, good matchups. I think it is going to be fun, we will see what is the score after the game."
Although head coach Jared Bednar will most likely put his top line against the Bergeron trio at times in the contest, some of Bednar's other groupings will also play against the threesome.
"I like our big line against almost every line in the league and I am not scared to use them in that regard, but we also have some other lines that will see some time against the Bergeron line tonight too," Bednar said following Colorado's morning skate. "Like I said before, I am not a hard match guy. I have a certain amount of minutes I want our guys to play and certain situations I want them to play in. If it is against the other team's best and it is working, I will stay with it a little bit."
Video: Jared Bednar before the Avs host the Bruins
BARBERIO, WILSON TO MAKE SEASON DEBUTS
Forward Colin Wilson and defenseman Mark Barberio will each be making their season debuts for the Avs tonight against Boston.
Wilson will replace J.T. Compher in the the lineup as Compher is out with a lower-body injury and has not skated since Colorado's game against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Wilson missed the first two games of the year after he was injured for most of training camp and the preseason, and he will be on a line with Tyson Jost and Matt Nieto against Boston.
Wilson, who has 282 points (113 goals, 169 assists) in 623 career NHL games, was able to play in the Avalanche's final contest of its exhibition schedule on Sept. 28.
"Feeling really good, I think that last preseason game was good, practicing with everybody went well. I feel good, excited to get back out there," said Wilson. "I want to continue the momentum that our team has right now. We are off to a good start and we have a talented locker room this year. I just want to contribute to that and help out the team."
Video: Colin Wilson before Colorado hosts Boston
Barberio will enter the lineup on a pairing with Ryan Graves, a spot that Conor Timmins occupied in the first two outings of the campaign before he was reassigned to the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League on Monday.
"Our defensive group is deeper than it's been. We have a lot of good options back there, and we have good guys in the stands every night," said Bednar. "Same thing on the forward side of things. You got a guy banged up like J.T. Compher, Jost can slide into the middle, we have some flexibility there with guys that can play center and wing
"A guy like Colin Wilson that played most of the year last year on our second line is slotting in on our third right now to come back in the lineup. He will have the opportunity to earn more ice time and more special-teams time."
The matchup is the first of two meetings between the Avalanche and Bruins this season, and Boston's lone visit to Denver. Colorado is 4-0-1 in its last five games in the series and holds a 22-10-2 record against Boston since moving to Denver in 1995-96.
Colorado went 1-0-1 against Boston last season, defeating the Bruins 6-3 on at Pepsi Center on Nov. 14 and falling 2-1 in overtime at TD Garden on February 10.
Grubauer has two career starts against the Bruins and is 2-0-0 with a 0.98 goals-against average and .964 save percentage in that span.
MORE THINGS TO WATCH
The Avs are looking to start a season 3-0-0 for just the second time since relocating to Denver, as the 2013-14 club opened that year 6-0-0. Overall, the Avs are aiming to win their first three games of a season for the sixth time in franchise history. The Quebec Nordiques won seven straight to start the season in 1985-86, three in a row in 1987-88, four consecutive wins in 1992-93 and opened the year with five straight victories in 1994-95.
Colorado has won eight straight regular-season games at Pepsi Center dating back to last year and is 13-2-1 in its last 16 regular-season contests on home ice. If you include the club's 4-1 home record during the playoffs, the Avs are now 12-1 in their last 13 games at Pepsi Center and 17-3-1 in their last 21.
The Avalanche has scored at least one goal in all six periods this season, the second straight year that Colorado has opened a season by scoring in each of its first six periods. Prior to last year, only one other time in Avalanche history (since 1995-96) had the club scored in each of its first six periods, 2013-14. No Avalanche club has ever opened a season by scoring in each of its first seven periods. Quebec scored in its first seven or more periods on four different occasions.
With a goal or an assist tonight, Cale Makar would become only the third defenseman in franchise history to tally points in each of his first three career regular-season games. Stefan Elliott opened his career with a three-game point streak from Nov. 26-30, 2011, and Quebec's Dave Pichette also had points in his first three contests from Dec. 7-11, 1980.