PITTSBURGH -- Based on the way he’s skating and practicing, it appears Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is ready to return to the lineup, but coach Claude Julien will make the final decision whether he plays Saturday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Julien isn't tipping his hand.
“I have no idea,” Ference said at Saturday's morning skate when asked if he’s playing. “That’s not my call.”
Ference suffered a lower-body injury in Game 5 of the quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs and has not played since. When asked if the decision was his, Ference said it's not that simple.
“He [Julien] knows me really well, the trainers know what to do, and let’s be honest the only player that gets to make that choice was Mario [Lemieux] back when he was playing, so it really has nothing to do with us,” he said. “Our job is to be honest and be ready.”
Since Ference's absence, young defensemen Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski have played well and are making significant contributions, which could make Julien’s decision a tough one. Either way, Ference is taking the team-first approach.
“Everybody wants to be part of the mix,” Ference said. “Even just feeling like you can contribute in any way, and you can do that in many ways by being positive and supportive. There’s more than what just happens on the ice. There’s a lot of support and roles that go into it and everybody needs to be on their game no matter what the situation is.”
During the morning skate, Ference was paired with a mix of defensemen. If he’s not playing in Game 1, he understands the importance of handling the situation as a professional.
“Everybody knows that. You don’t even make the playoffs without that mentality,” Ference said. “It’s a room that gets it and that’s why there’s been some pretty good consistent success. You look at every other team that’s here, the teams that have made the playoffs, and it’s more than what you do on the ice.
“It’s a long year, a hard battle and most overused word is ‘parity’ but it’s true. There are very little things that separate every team. Having the right attitude and the right environment can push you above other people. It’s no different if a guy was out months ago compared to now. You need to do your part no matter what your role is on the team.”