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

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- The Bruins are going through a nice, little bountiful stretch of offense right now after a half-season of struggle.

The Bruins are averaging more than three goals per game in their last 12 contests, and have scored a whopping 22 goals in their last six games including dropping six scores on the Flyers Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. Combine that with the 7-for-25 performance on the power play during the month of January, and things are finally starting to catch up with a Bruins team that was all shoot/no score for months of frustrating hockey this season.

“If you want sustained success then you have to be good defensively, but you also have to score some goals. That’s definitely part of it and we have to keep it going,” said Patrice Bergeron, who has four goals and eight points in his last nine games after struggling out of the starting gate. “You’re not going to get rewarded every night like we did [against the Flyers], but you have to find that consistency where you’re close to having that every night.”

One thing nobody should expect out of the B’s, however, is to get outside of what they do well now that they’ve started slapping some numbers up on the board. Instead the Bruins are intent on their bedrock of disciplined defense and sensational goaltending with the added offense just making it much tougher to beat them these days.

“I don’t know if we can stand here and say we’re going to sustain that we’re scoring lots of goals. I think what we need to sustain here is winning more games than we lose,” said Claude Julien. “That’s what we’ve got to sustain. Whether it’s a 1-0 or 2-1 game, or it’s a 5-2 or 5-3 game it doesn’t really matter. It’s about winning hockey games much more than it’s about how much you scored, and how much you don’t score.

“Overall when I look at the scoring chances we’re giving up per game, that doesn’t seem to have changed. Goals allowed may have changed a little bit lately, but overall I think we’ve been very steady in that area [of defense].”

So now the Bruins will again be looking for that ideal balance of offense/defense when they take the ice against the Islanders on Monday afternoon for their second straight matinee at TD Garden. 

Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

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Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It’s been a long month of bag skates and lonely practices for Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow.

That’s about to change thanks to injuries to both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller, who are both not expected to be able to play against the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon at TD Garden. That means Morrow will be in the B’s lineup for the first time since a Dec. 12 win over the Montreal Canadiens, a span of 16 consecutive B’s games that the 24-year-old has been watching from the press box.

Morrow skated in a pairing with John-Michael Liles in Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena prior to Monday’smatinee, and obviously he’s looking forward to getting back into games given this season’s sporadic practice schedule.

“[Playing well after sitting for long stretches] isn’t necessarily something you want to be good at, but if you are good at then it’s a good tool to have in your bag. It’s a confident feeling that I’ll be able to come in [and play well],” said Morrow, who has an assist and a minus-3 rating in 13 games for the Black and Gold this season. “I’ve stayed in good shape and worked hard in practice, and that’s all I can do up until this point.

“Put simply, [this year’s compacted schedule] is exhausting. Countless times I’ve skated by myself, and anybody would tell you there’s nothing harder than skating by yourself on a sheet of ice. Mentally and physically it’s just exhausting. There haven’t been many practices and there haven’t been many game-type situations in the practices we do have. Skating with the whole team is almost like a pregame skate scenario. But you’re still skating every day, so it’s putting it upon yourself to go out there and stay ready for things.”

The one issue for Morrow, a former first round pick, over the last couple of seasons has been maintaining a high level of play once he draws his way into the lineup. It feels like there’s a drop-off in his play once he’s played a few games in a row whether it’s physical mistakes or mental lapses in his play, and that’s something he wants to avoid when given an opportunity to suit up.

“I feel like when I have played this year that I’ve been quite consistent and that I’ve played well,” said Morrow, the last remaining part of the 2013 Tyler Seguin trade still in a Bruins uniform. “I’m just in a situation that the cards are playing out the way that they are, so it depends on how many games I get whether it’s one, two, 30 or however many games are left [in the season]. It’s realistically entirely up to me. If I can shake the rust out in the first couple of shifts and start from there, it’s going to be a big positive in my book. It’s the really the only option I have left now.”

Given that Colin Miller began skating on his own on Sunday morning, it might not be a very big window for Morrow to impress upon the coaches just how badly he wants to play. But one would expect he’s going to bring his best on Monday against the Isles with the hopes that it will be somebody else sitting up in the press box when it once again becomes a D-man numbers game for the 7-8 players for six lineup spots.