Ference: 'It's nice to be back out skating'

Ference: 'It's nice to be back out skating'
May 29, 2013, 1:00 am
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WILMINGTON – It’s been a difficult past few weeks for Andrew Ference watching playoff hockey while healing up a left foot injury suffered against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the 34-year-old is making big strides. Ference was back on the practice ice with his teammates for the first time on Tuesday morning at Ristuccia Arena, and was a full participant in the hour-long practice session.

Ference suffered the injury on May 10 in Game 5 against the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs, and has just been slowly, surely working his way back toward full health.

“It’s just nice to be out skating again, and trying to get everything back to full speed. Watching games is tough, but it makes it a lot easier when we’re winning,” said Ference. “In that series against Toronto I was obviously biting my nails, and it was tough to watch. But it was pretty euphoric when the comeback happened.

“It was nice when we came out on the right side, and in the last series it was fine to watch. We were playing great and winning. It didn’t make it any easier to watch, but it feels better when we’re winning.”

Ference was skating with Aaron Johnson as his defensive partner during the morning practice, and it would appear he’s still some time away from breaking back into the playoff lineup.

It would be difficult to keep Ference out of the mix if he were 100 percent healthy, but it would also be pretty tough at this point to remove either rookie Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski after stellar performances against the Rangers. Claude Julien said it was too early to make that decision when the Bruins don’t’ even know when the Eastern Conference Finals series will begin against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“It’s still a medical issue at this point, but he’s getting closer. There comes a time when he might be ready to play, but it’s a ‘risky’ ready,” said Claude Julien. “We need to see what the trainers say and how Andrew feels before we make any decision on him. “

So will Ference get his spot in the lineup immediately back when he’s ready no matter how well Bartkowski or Krug are playing?

“We’re not there yet,” said Claude Julien. “Now isn’t the time to start talking about this [lineup], or that. We’ll decide on what D pairings we want, and who we want to play against certain guys. We’ve got a lot to decide before we answer that question.”

Even if Ference doesn’t crack the lineup for the start of the series against the Penguins, it stands to reason that the feisty, tough-minded, experienced defensemen will get in against Pittsburgh at some point in the series. Ference has drawn part of the defensive assignment on Sidney Crosby over the years along with center Patrice Bergeron, and both players have enjoyed some level of success against Pittsburgh’s No. 1 center.

That might be a combination Claude Julien and the Bruins coaching staff go with yet again once Ference is 100 percent healthy, but only time will tell if the B’s alternate captain is ready by Game 1 against the Penguins on Saturday night.