It looks like the Boston Bruins‘ defensive corps won’t be getting one of their mainstays back just yet.
Veteran blue liner Andrew Ference, who began practicing this past Monday for the first time since an injury kept him sidelined for Game 6 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, has not received medical clearance to play just yet. As a result, he will not be lacing up his skates for Game 1 of the Bruins’ NHL Eastern Conference Finals clash with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Suffering from an injury that has been labeled as both “lower body” and “undisclosed,” Ference has not seen much time on ice this postseason. Along with his current ailment, he was also given a one-game suspension for Game 2 against the Maple Leafs for an elbow to the head of Mikhail Grabovski.
It’s quite a shame Ference can’t seem to get back on the ice. After a very sluggish regular season he was seeing some rejuvenation in this postseason, playing some of the most inspired hockey we’ve seen in some time.
Things were looking up for Boston’s alternate captain as he began skating again earlier this week. Some felt it was only a matter of time before Ference stepped in to replace either Matt Bartkowski or Torey Krug. Each rookie defenseman has played well beyond expectations lately, though odds would have to favor Bartkowski drawing short straw and being declared a healthy scratch upon Ference’s return.
However, as of yesterday coach Claude Julien has been told Ference will remain sidelined tomorrow night for Game 1 against Pittsburgh. Adding to this, Julien seemed noncommittal when asked if Ference would even get a roster spot once he was healthy, declining to comment when asked by reporters.
You can’t blame him for his indecision. Bartkowski and Krug, especially, have been spark plugs for Boston. It would be smart coaching to ride the hot hands while they’re still contributing.
And yet, Ference played a crucial role in Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup run. When he’s on his game, he is a very steadying presence for the Bruins’ back end.
For Julien, deciding who will start once Ference is healthy is going be a choice nobody will envy. All we know is the final verdict has been delayed for the time being.