Big Z will be in Black & Gold for years to come.

In about an hour, the Boston Bruins will kick off their 2010-11 campaign against the Phoenix Coyotes in David Krecji’s backyard, Prague, Czech Republic. I have my jersey out, snacks ready, likely forward lines consumed, salary cap fretted. I am ready to go.

But in the event you aren’t, here are five things to at least think about for the upcoming season. Some are warnings, some are fun things to look forward to, and some are mild predictions. Enjoy.

1. The Bruins are perilously close to the salary cap

As Blackhawk fans know, the $59.4 million cap is nothing to laugh about. The Bruins are currently under, but only to the benefit of Marco Sturm’s recovery from the knee injury he suffered in last year’s playoffs. When he’s healthy, his $3.5M cap number will have to be accounted for, which means someone (Michael Ryder?) will have to go.

2. The progression of Tyler Seguin

With Marc Savard out indefinitely due to post-concussion syndrome, the Bruins’ top pick will center a third line between Ryder and Blake Wheeler. Should Savard come back, or if the Bruins acquire another centerman, Seguin will likely ride the right wing with March Recchi and Patrice Bergeron, the much-heralded “Past, Present and Future” line.

The Bruins haven’t had a high-profile rookie since Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov debuted in 1997-98. Thornton came along slowly, but Samsonov was a blast to watch. It should be fun to watch Seguin grow up.

3. Zdeno Chara’s contract extension

Chara, as of Friday morning, was still hopeful that he could have a new deal before the start of the season, which seems happily optimistic. It’s Saturday morning now, and there’s still no extension, but that doesn’t mean negotiations will go the way of the pumpkin when the puck is dropped at noon, Eastern time. The two sides will likely keep negotiating, as the Bruins are no stranger to signing deals mid-season. Just last year, Tuukka Rask, Milan Lucic and Savard were all made richer after the season started.

Bergeron was given a three-year, $15M extension on Friday. Is Chara’s around the corner?

UPDATE: Chara has just signed a 7-year, $45M extension. Like, just now. Awesome.

4. The return of Milan Lucic

There is no one more fun to watch that Lucic, when healthy. Last year was nearly a lost season, with Lucic not returning to form until late in the playoffs, when he became a wrecking ball in front of the net. With the benefit of the off-season, Lucic should be back to full strength and making all those 17-clad fans in the balcony deliriously happy.

To that end, here are five crazy clips of Lucic from YouTube: 1 2 3 4 5

5. Rask via Thomas

Tim Thomas’ woes last season were likely due to his hip injury, which has since been corrected via surgery. It’s obvious that Tuukka Rask is the present and the future, but it was also pretty clear that Rask became fatigued as the playoffs wore on. The Bruins have, essentially, two number one goalies, and the common thought is that Thomas should be traded. Why?

Their combined cap number is $6.25M. That’s less than the Panthers are paying Tomas Vokoun, the Devils for Martin Brodeur, the Canucks for Roberto Luongo, and so on. This is not a problem, this is a blessing. Have them each play 41 games or so, ride the hot hand in the playoffs, and don’t be afraid to spell one or the other should the team go deep.

All that said, I have rosters to print out, hockey cards to pour over, pizza bagels to make and an apartment to tidy up. Here’s to the 2010-11 season, whatever it may bring.

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