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Fight costs Bruins Stuart for 3-4 weeks

02.01.10 at 1:20 pm ET
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Mark Stuart is back on the shelf for the Bruins after breaking his finger Saturday. (AP)

Mark Stuart is back on the shelf for the Bruins after breaking his finger Saturday. (AP)

WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart paid an unfortunate price for helping his team gain some much-needed momentum.

Stuart broke his finger while fighting with Wayne Simmonds in the second period of Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings He will be lost to the team through the break for the Winter Olympics.

The altercation with Simmonds occurred seconds after Stuart leveled Kings center Anze Kopitar with a devastating shoulder check. Simmonds immediately went after Stuart and the two quickly traded punches.

After the fight was broken up, Stuart went to the Bruins bench and not directly to the penalty box, indicating he may have been injured.

“He’s getting operated on this afternoon, he’ll be out until after the Olympic break,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “That’s from the fight.”

Stuart had just returned to the B’s lineup on Jan. 16 after missing 14 games with a broken sternum.

“The last couple of games I thought he was playing his best hockey,” Julien said. “We liked his game and unfortunately we lose him for 3-4 weeks.”

The injury is all the more frustrating because it occurred during a fight instigated by Simmonds, who felt the need to stand up for a teammate even though Stuart’s hit on Kopitar was legal.

“That’s as clean a check as you’ll see, there’s no doubt,” Julien said. “Unfortunately, this game seems to be heading in that direction — when a good clean hit is given, everybody responds. We’re not excluding ourselves. We defend our teammates and obviously [Kopitar] is one of their best players that took that hit. If you look around the league, it was kind of the normal reaction.”

With Stuart out of the lineup, the Bruins recalled Adam McQuaid from Providence on an emergency basis. McQuaid has played eight games for Boston this season, providing physical play and a willingness to drop the gloves.

The Bruins also were encouraged to see defenseman Andrew Ference practicing with the team Monday for the first time since suffering a groin injury Jan. 5 in Ottawa.

“It’s nice to be on the ice, being with the guys a little sooner than expected,” Ference said. “There’s a couple of steps, [Monday I wasn’t doing] stops and starts or any contact. But at least it’s getting back to practice.”

It is not likely that Ference will be available until after the Bruins complete a four-game homestand Saturday.

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