DENVER - The Bruins will get a bit of a boost for their road-trip finale against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night as Joakim Nordstrom is set for his 2019-20 debut after missing the first three games of the season due to a foot injury suffered in the Stanley Cup Final.
"Last couple of days have been feeling really good," Nordstrom said following Thursday's morning skate at Pepsi Center. "Excited to be able to play tonight and be back with the guys."
Nordstrom skated with the team for much of training camp but did not play in any preseason contests as the injury - the result of blocking a shot late in the Final - lingered longer than he anticipated.
"I think just getting your timing back, all the situations in tight," Nordstrom said of the challenges he'll face given his hindered training camp. "Hopefully not, but might take some time to get back to where I was. But conditioning, I feel great. I think just play easy, simple, hard and stick to a good, detailed game."
Nordstrom's return will no doubt be made a bit easier given that he will be in his familiar fourth-line left wing spot alongside Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner. The trio, along with Noel Acciari, comprised one of the NHL's top fourth lines last season.
"I'm excited to be back with Wags and Sean. I want to pick back up from where we left off last year," said Nordstrom. "I think we're all good skaters on our line too, and our team. Speed's not going to be an issue. Taking care of the puck, making smart, hard plays and trying to play with the puck as much as possible."
Video: Nordstrom returns to lineup
The 27-year-old Sweden native also has a year of the Bruins system under his belt, which has made his approach to his second season in Black & Gold a tad smoother. Nordstrom had 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in 70 regular-season games last year, before adding 8 points (three goals, five assists) in 23 postseason contests.
"Just being familiar with the systems and all that, I don't really have to think about that too much like last year," said Nordstrom. "Knowing the guys, knowing the coaches and everything, I feel confident and - compared to last year, first game, it's kind of night and day."
Capping It Off
After their first 3-0 start since 2001-02, the Bruins will be looking to cap off their lengthy season-opening road trip with a perfect record before heading home for Saturday's home opener against New Jersey.
"I think it's been good," said Colorado native Brandon Carlo. "Learning points as well, but definitely growing as a team within this road trip, on and off the ice, so that's been good. Overall, if we could get the win tonight that'd be fantastic. Make it a great road trip, get back home and start playing in front of the fans."
Despite boasting an unbeaten record to this point, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy does not believe the group has played to its full potential, which, he acknowledged, is fairly typical this for any team early in the season.
"I don't think we've overwhelmed anybody yet. I don't think we've gotten to our A-game for 60 minutes," said Cassidy. "I think most teams would say that, though, at this time of the year - it's hard to find your game right out of the gate. I thought Vegas was our best 60, I liked the way we played, I like the way we competed.
"Tried to extend the lead in third without giving up much. Came from behind. There were a lot of good things in that game so we're trending in the right direction, but we'll see what we've got tonight."
Jaroslav Halak will start in goal for the Bruins. He posted a 35-save shutout in Arizona last Saturday in his first action of the season.
Video: Carlo speaks in Denver
Like the Bruins, Colorado enters the matchup without a loss so far this season. The Avalanche, 2-0 after victories over Calgary (5-3) and Minnesota (4-2), are considered by many to be one of the top contenders in the Western Conference after a trip to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
Colorado possesses a lethal No. 1 line that, along with the Bruins' top trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, is jockeying for position as the NHL's best. Nathan MacKinnon (three assists), Mikko Rantanen (three goals, assist), and Gabriel Landeskog (goal, assist) have already combined for nine points in two games.
"We preferably would like to match [MacKinnon] up against, probably, Bergeron. He is always a good matchup against anybody and then we use Kuraly a lot, so those are our two that we tend to use against top lines," Cassidy said when asked how he plans to counter the Avs' No. 1 line. "But we'll live with the circumstances if we don't get those two lines.
"D pairs are important as well, [Zdeno Chara] and Charlie [McAvoy] are typically the guys that are going to handle that. Now, Carlo has good foot speed and Torey [Krug] proved last year. Those will be the four guys that will handle the line share.
"I just think that whoever plays against them, you've got to manage the puck and force them to go 200 feet. And then coming out of line changes, they've got a lot of speed. With MacKinnon, you've got like three or four guys in this league you've probably got to find them and adjust your game plan more than you would on other nights."
Philipp Grubauer will start in goal for Colorado with forward Colin Wilson and defenseman Mark Barberio making their season debuts.
Video: Cassidy speaks in Denver
Thursday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Karson Kuhlman
Danton Heinen - Charlie Coyle - David Backes
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
Scratches: Par Lindholm, Steven Kampfer, Brett Ritchie
Video: B's close out road trip in Denver