Boston Bruins

Ference feeling good about new season

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Ference feeling good about new season

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Andrew Ference has always bristled at the notion he was injury prone, or perhaps too small to consistently withstand the NHL pounding a defenseman must endurewithout sustaining bodily injuries.It was tough to argue he wasn't exactly that while missing an average of 30 games each season during his first three full years with the Bruins. But then last year's Stanley Cup season happened, and Ference maintained his health and wellness for the majority of a bruising campaign.

The 32-year-old Ference enjoyed his first largely healthy season with the Bruins while playing 70 games along with a full playoff effort of 25 contests, and posted 15 points along witha plus-22 while avoiding all of the lower bodyissues that have plagued him through the years. His year-long presence was unmistakable along the Boston back line, and the leadership within the dressing room during the postseason simply couldn't be ignored.

Its no coincidence that good health and beneficial fortune for Ference coincided with his hockey clubfinally capturing the Stanley Cup. Even better, the defenseman enjoyed a healthy summer of workouts getting ready for the new season and a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.

Ference joked that he probably felt a lot better when he was 18 years old, but is as good as ever physically given all of the knee,groinleg issues hes battled throughwith since landing in Boston midway through the 2006-07 season.

You saw a long list the last couple of years of ourguys having surgeries in the summer and spending all of those weeks simply rehabbing the injuries. Those are difficult off-seasons that eat up your entire summer, said Ference. To not have that to deal with this summer, you feel a lot better about things. "I wasnt limping around the whole summer. That was great."Groin problems and sports hernia issues really hampered Ference through each of the prior two playoff runs for Boston, and became a public sticking point when the veteran blueliner had inked a three-year contract extension before last year. But the Bs defenseman proved the critics wrong en route to enjoying his best season in Black and Gold, and provided the kind of embracing, thoughtful leadership that the rest of the team gladlyfall in behind.

Ference is ready to provide that steady hand along the blueline again as the team goes about the difficult chore of attempting to capture another Cup, and he along with the rest of his teammates knows it wont be easy. Staying healthy, focused and successful within the brutal NHL landscape is the ultimate challenge that the Bs are gearing up for.Ference knows that all too well.The biggest challenge is, of course, the mental challenge to stay sharp, to remember what it took to get there and know how hard the battle was, said Ference. We have an honest and open group and were fairly level-headed about knowing what it took for a team like us to win it in the first place. Were not a very flashy group. Nobody is kidding themselves into thinking that and with so many guys returning we have a pretty easy time talking about that.

With Ference taking a healthy, prominent role again this upcoming season, the Stanley Cup champion B's are already ahead of the game.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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