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Ference not making trip to New York, Toronto

He’s been arguably their best defenseman on the ice for their first 16 games, and now the Bruins might have to survive without the services of Andrew Ference [1] for a bit after he took an Andre Markov screaming shot off his foot in the closing moments of Thursday night’s second period.

According to Bruins coach Claude Juien, Ference was being examined while the Bruins held a loose practice on the ice of Ristuccia Arena Friday morning and he wouldn’t be making the next road trip through New York (Saturday night game) and Toronto (Monday night game). Young blueliner Matt Hunwick will again be called upon to step into the Bruins’ breach for the felled Ference, and the Bruins’ coach is still hopeful that the Ference injury isn’t a serious one.

“Guys, he’s not going to make the trip, and the minute we have something on his case we’ll let you know,” said Julien. “For sure he’s not making the trip, so [the doctors] are checking him out. Obviously he got the shot off the foot, and he’s in no condition right now to make this trip. Hopefully today or tomorrow we’ll let you guys know.

“Everybody knows he’s been one of our most consistent defenseman all year long,” added Julien. “When we lost Chucky early in the season that was a big loss too, and we survived it and I think we have to survive without the loss of Andrew this weekend. I think Hunwick has been getting better every game and it’s an opportunity for him to step up and do the job.”

Hunwick (a +1 without a point in four games played) has appeared much more comfortable in his second stint with the Bruins this season than he did as a wide-eyed rookie last year, and in many ways his stature and skill set — a puck-moving defenseman with good offensive instincts and an ability to kick start the Bruins attack — could allow him to really step up and flourish in Ference’s absence, whether it’s a short two game injury or a prolonged problem.

“It’s definitely an opportunity to go out and play well, and help the team continue on the path that they’ve been on,” said Hunwick. “If I do play it’s a chance to step in and be a positive player. [Ference] has been a really good player for us, so it’s a big loss for us. He’s on the power play and he kills penalties and plays a lot of minutes, so there will definitely be a void that I want to help fill.”

Let’s not forget, though, that the 29-year-old Ference is a team-best +9, has racked up seven assists and has been a key part of the “Peach Fuzz” second power play unit during Boston’s run to first place in the Northeast Division. This should be a major test for a team that’s climbed all the way to the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference behind the New York Rangers [2] team they’ll face Saturday night at MSG.

–It was a pretty relaxed optional skate for the Bruins this morning after the brain-beating the team put on the Habs last night — with only Tim Thomas [3], Petteri Nokelainen, Shawn Thornton [4], Mark Stuart [5], Hunwick, Blake Wheeler [6], Manny Fernandez [7] on the ice firing shots in the offensive zone with assistant coach Doug Houda.