Lucic and Ference 'questionable'; Stuart 'ready'


Lucic and Ference 'questionable'; Stuart 'ready'

By Danny Picard

WILMINGTON -- Milan Lucic and Andrew Ference were not present at Bruins practice on Friday afternoon at Ristuccia Arena, but Mark Stuart was back skating with the team after participating in Thursday's morning skate.

Lucic has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury, and coach Claude Julien said after Friday's practice that he's "day-to-day" after skating prior to the team's practice session.

Julien said Lucic is "questionable" for Saturday afternoon's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the TD Garden, but after that is expecting some good news because the power forward is "progressing well," according to the Bruins' coach.

Ference never returned for the third period of Thursday night's game against the Flyers, and he is also questionable for Saturday. Julien said the defenseman was dealing with an "upper body" injury and is "day-to-day."

"Ference is very questionable for Saturday, but after that, we're hoping it's minor enough that we'll see him back soon," said Julien after Friday's practice.

"Lucic is obviously another guy who's going to be questionable for Saturday, but I think after that we can expect hopefully some good news, because he's progressing well," said the B's coach.

Emergency call-up Matt Bartkowski was one of seven defensemen at Friday's practice, with Stuart (hand) being a full participant.

Julien said after practice that Stuart still hasn't been cleared to play, medically.

"He's been cleared to practice, but he hasn't been medically cleared to play," said Julien. "So it's certainly not my decision right now, as we speak."

Stuart, whose latest hand x-rays showed his fractured finger to be "progressing really well," said that he didn't have any restrictions on Friday, and that his hand has healed enough to play in a game.

"I believe it is, but that's not up to me," said Stuart.

"That's Stuey being Stuey," said Julien. "He'd play with a broken arm if you let him. That's the kind of person he is . . . That's just a player who's anxious to want to get back. But we respect him for that, because that's the kind of guy he is. He'll do whatever it takes to play, and then to be a part of this team."

Blake Wheeler hit the ice in pain midway through Friday's practice, forcing the Bruins' medical staff to run over with towels, as Wheeler held his face.

He said after the practice that he took a Daniel Paille wrist shot off the cheek bone.

"It crippled me pretty quick,' said Wheeler. "Now I know what it's like to be a boxer."

There was no blood after the fact, making his "hitting the deck" practice act a little embellished.

Teammate David Krejci gave Wheeler a hard time after practice, and told Wheeler to show the media a small, red welt on his stomach, while poking fun at his reaction to getting the wind knocked out of him earlier in the week.

"You'll probably be a game-time decision for Saturday," joked Krejci.

Here's how the practice roster looked on Friday:

Ryder -- Savard -- HortonWheeler -- Krejci --SeguinMarchand -- Bergeron -- RecchiPaille -- Campbell -- ThorntonChara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, Stuart, Kampfer, McQuaid, and Bartkowski on the blue line.Thomas -- Rask

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' third line has been reborn under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, and the players are now openly admitting they desperately needed a change.

Claude Julien never trusted Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes enough defensively to play them together, but this line has blossomed under Cassidy: Six goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in seven games. They’ve survived in the defensive zone by rarely playing there. Instead, they push the pace, make plays to keep the puck out of the D-zone and, most importantly, keep producing the secondary offense that wasn’t there in the first 55 games of the season. 

No one has been freed from the shackles more than Spooner, who is back playing his natural center position after being forced to play left wing under Julien. The 25-year-old said Tuesday that getting a clean slate with a new coach has been extremely beneficial to him, and that perhaps he didn't always love playing for the guy now minding the bench in Montreal. 

“I felt like the last coach ... he just didn’t really trust me,” said Spooner, who has two goals and six points along with a plus-1 rating in seven games post-Julien. “It might've been kind of on me not really playing to the potential that I have, but at the same time . . . I just don’t think that he really liked me as a player. It’s kind of in the past now. It’s just a part of the game. It’s up to me to just go out there and just play, and not have that stuff in the back of my mind. 

“I just kind of have to go out there and believe in myself and I think at times I wasn’t really going out there and doing that. Maybe that’s something to learn. This sport has ups and downs, and I’ve had my downs. You learn that you can just sort of push through it. If you do that then things can be good.”

Spooner has 10 goals and 33 points along with a minus-3 this season, and could potentially surpass last year's numbers (13-36-49) in his second full season. 

Most felt that the speedy, skilled Spooner would be one of the big beneficiaries of the move from Julien to Cassidy, and now he’s showing that with a new lease on life in Boston. 

Tuesday, Feb. 28: Nothing coming easy for Habs

Tuesday, Feb. 28: Nothing coming easy for Habs

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while it’s all happening around the NHL world ahead of tomorrow’s NHL trade deadline.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Eric Engels says that a torturous February shows that nothing will come easy for the Montreal Canadiens.

*Some raw locker room video from the Florida Panthers with local D-man Keith Yandle holding court with reporters.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has some early thoughts, and some praise, for the Washington Capitals landing puck-moving D-man and big ticket rental player Kevin Shattenkirk.

*The Toronto Maple Leafs up their playoff cred by landing gritty, big third-line center Brian Boyle ahead of the trade deadline.

*Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are the city of Chicago’s longest-tenured teammates having spent the last 12 years together with the Blackhawks.

*Patrice Bergeron and Toucher and Rich are getting together for their 10th annual Cuts for a Cause, which will be on March 27.

*For something completely different: Jimmy Kimmel gives his perspective of the debacle that went down at the end of the Academy Awards on Sunday night.