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Need to Know: Bruins vs. Avalanche

Bruins can extend point streak to 14 games as they close out five-game homestand

by Eric Russo @erusso22 /

BOSTON - The Bruins close out their five-game homestand with a meeting against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night at TD Garden. Fresh of having its eight-game winning streak snapped, Boston will look to get back on track, while trying to extend its points streak to 14.

"Obviously you don't want to go down 3-0 in the third period," Jake DeBrusk said of what the B's can improve on following Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to Chicago. "Not many teams can say they've done what we've been doing, especially late in games to come back. It's not easy to come back in this league no matter what the team is or how they play defensively. I think that everyone is competitive out on the ice and everyone has pride. For us to get a point out of that was pretty special…we have to make sure our urgency is there.

"We have to understand that teams that are coming into our building, they know that they don't want to get beat and they don't want to start off on the wrong foot. They want to bring their best and we're kind of that measuring stick in a way."

Here's everything else you need to know about Saturday's matchup (7 p.m. on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub):

Ritchie Returns

After missing the last seven games - and 12 of the last 16 - with an elbow infection, Brett Ritchie will return to the lineup. The winger has two goals and two assists in 15 games this season.

"You never want to be missing games for anything," said Ritchie. "It's exciting to be back in. I feel like I'm ready. Just take it a game at a time."

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is hoping that Ritchie can gain some traction after being in and out of the lineup for much of his first campaign in Black & Gold, as he tries to figure out where the 26-year-old best fits.

"The reason [Bruins GM Don Sweeney] brought him into the mix is because we were looking to add some size, a guy that could get inside, help us score some goals that way, be a presence," said Cassidy. "Unfortunately, it's been a stop-and-start kind of season for him, so we don't have a great evaluation on him right now. At times, he's looked to be that missing part and other times you just don't know because he's getting up to speed again. That's what he'll be doing again tonight.

"He's been working really hard in practice, he looks good. The good thing about him is it hasn't been a really serious injury that's kept him out, but unfortunately not enough reps, so we're not sure on chemistry. But hopefully this is it and it works itself out because it's a question we want answered one way or another."

Which player comes out of the lineup for Ritchie remains in question, with Cassidy saying a forward - he would not reveal who - came to the rink "not feeling well" on Saturday morning and will be a game-time decision.

Opposing View

The Avalanche (18-8-2, 38 points) have won five in a row and sit second in the Central Division, four points back of St. Louis. Colorado has the third-highest goal differential in the league at plus-25, behind only the Bruins (plus-35) and Washington (plus-27).

The Avs are paced by their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen, which has been reunited in recent days after extended absences due to injury for the latter two. Landeskog returned from a 16-game absence on Thursday in Montreal and notched a goal in Avs' 3-2 victory, while Rantanen has six points (goal, five assists) in three games since his return.

MacKinnon is tied with Brad Marchand for third in the league in scoring with 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) in 28 games. David Pastrnak is one point behind with 43 points.

The Avalanche are first in the league in scoring with 3.68 goals per game (the Bruins are fourth at 3.59) and rank 11th in goals against at 2.79 goals per game (the Bruins are first at 2.24).

Colorado defenseman and former UMass standout Cale Makar was named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for November and ranks second on the Avs in scoring with 28 points (8 goals, 20 assists) in 28 games.

Colorado has also received good goaltending with Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz posting back-to-back 38-save efforts.

"Very good team," said DeBrusk. "It's one of those things where we don't see the West teams too much, but I'm a fan of hockey and I've been watching the last couple games. They're definitely a good team, good forwards and a goaltender who's been playing very well right now."

Wait, There's More

  • Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal. Cassidy added that Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and David Pastrnak will be back together as Boston's top line.
  • The Bruins' last meeting with Colorado at TD Garden snapped a 12-game winless streak (0-10-1-1) against the Avs on home ice. Overall, Boston is 1-5 in its last six against Colorado, including a 4-2 loss on Oct. 10.
  • Charlie Coyle is one goal shy of the 100th of his career, while Jake DeBrusk is two points shy of his 100th.
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