Ference returns to help stabilize B's defense

Ference returns to help stabilize B's defense
May 6, 2013, 1:15 am

Andrew Ference hadn’t been forced to watch his own team’s playoff game since a groin injury had knocked out of the Carolina series four years ago, and it didn’t take too long to remember how much he dislikes the experience.

“It sucks. It’s tough watching from the ninth floor. It’s nerve-wracking. I think I bruised [Daugavins’] arm because I kept hitting it so hard sitting next to him,” said Andrew Ference. “But for me it was just one game. Now I can get back to normal, get playing and get back to feeling like I’m contributing.”

Ference won’t have to sit idly by and watch again anytime soon as the veteran Bruins defenseman served out his one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head in Game 1. He skated among the top four defensemen at Sunday’s practice at TD Garden, and will be back in the lineup when the Bruins travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre Monday night for Game 3.

The Bruins will certainly take the 19:36 of positive ice time that Ference gave them in Game 1 while adding an intense physical presence, and enough offense to kick in three shots on net.

One thing Ference vowed he won’t do: ease off his physical edge because the NHL slapped him on the wrist because of a hit on Mikhail Grabovski.

“I think you play the same way. I saw a bunch of hits [in Game 2] that were the same thing,” said Ference. “It’s just a hockey play. There are plays where guys are hitting all over the place. You see those hits all over the league where guys are being aggressive. It’s obviously not something you need to take out of the sport.”

He will once again pair with Johnny Boychuk as Boston’s second D-pairing, and will allow the B’s coaching staff to once again piece together Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg as their top shutdown defensemen pairing. Clearly Ference was missed as a series of Boston defensive breakdowns led to the 4-2 loss on TD Garden ice in a big Game 2 effort from the Leafs.

“I know it’s almost a cliché, but it’s his experience back there," Claude Julien said of Ference. "He’s been around for a long time; besides winning the Cup, he was in the finals with Calgary that one year. So [Ference] understands how important these playoff games are, and the things that you do in the playoffs are.

“Certainly, he’s stabilized our defense, as far as getting the right pairs and everything else. But he’s a guy that comes to play every night; not only is he a good player, but he’s a good leader. He’s very poised in the dressing room; when he speaks, he speaks well, just like many of our other guys. He adds that element to our hockey club.”

The hope is that Ference also adds the missing defensive piece that can calm things down defensively, and once again hold down a Toronto team that busted out offensively against a mistake-prone Boston defense in Game 2.