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Morning skate report: Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg together, Andrew Ference hopes to return 06.01.13 at 12:53 pm ET
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PITTSBURGH — The Bruins will play a hockey game for the first time in a week when they finally open the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center. From the looks of it, there will be no changes to their lineup, although Andrew Ference could be a possibility to return.

Both Ference and Matt Bartkowski took rushes with Johnny Boychuk on Boston’s second pairing in the morning skate, with Bartkowski taking the majority of them. After the skate, Claude Julien declined to tip his hand regarding Ference’s status for the game, with Ference saying he wants to play but that the decision is up to the coaches.

Another notable takeaway from the morning skate was that it appears the Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg pairing will be kept together, presumably to play against the Penguins’ top line of Evgeni Malkin between James Neal and Jarome Iginla.

The Bruins’ lineup looked as follows in the morning skate:

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jaromir Jagr
Rich Peverley – Chris Kelly – Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara – Dennis Seidenberg
Matt Bartkowski/Andrew Ference – Johnny Boychuk
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara,
Andrew Ference: ‘It’s a matter of trainers and coaches figuring out’ return 05.31.13 at 2:21 pm ET
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Andrew Ference has been preparing to return to the Bruins lineup if cleared. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WILMINGTON — Andrew Ference is close to playing. How close? Well, that depends on whom you ask and when.

Ference, himself, said that he’s had a very good and productive week of practice as he comes off a left foot injury that sidelined him for the last two games of the first round series against Toronto and all five games against the Rangers.

“I’ve had some really good practices. I think it’s a matter of trainers and coaches figuring out that,” Ference said after Friday’s practice. “The only thing I can do is skate and do what I have to do to make myself ready. But, at a certain point, it’s in other people’s hands as well.”

“We’re certainly not going to tip our hands,” Julien said when asked about possible maneuvering with defensive pairings. “If Ference is cleared, we have to consider that.”

Ference was skating for a fourth straight day with Aaron Johnson. As it stands now, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk would start the series as the top D pair, followed by Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski and then Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug. Given Krug’s firepower on the power play, Bartkowski figures to be the odd man out when Ference is cleared.

“I feel good. I feel good,” Ference repeated moments later. “Good practices. I was able to take part in everything. It was nice to be at full speed with the guys. Feeling great. I think everybody is excited to get going here. We’ve done a lot of watching of the other series over the last few days. [Good to] get back to the real deal.”

The other major theme regarding Ference is his return to Pittsburgh. The Bruins are playing the Penguins in the playoffs for the first time since Ference began his career in Pittsburgh in the 1999-2000 season, after being an eighth-round pick in 1997.

“As far as going back to Pittsburgh, I’m actually surprised this is the first time our teams have met up in the past few years. Obviously, we’ve both had success. Should be great hockey. Obviously, good for the game to have those good, big markets left over here,” Ference said.

Ference broke in on a team that included Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens and Alexei Kovalev. That team made it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001 before bowing out to the Devils in five games.

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Read More: Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Stanley Cup Playoffs
Bruins Thursday notes: ‘Minimal maintenance’ day for David Krejci 05.30.13 at 1:28 pm ET
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Bruins work on their power play and penalty kill Thursday in Wilmington. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WILMINGTON — David Krejci was not on the ice on Thursday but coach Claude Julien said it wasn’t that big of a deal.

“Maintenance, minimal maintenance,” the Bruins coach said as Krejci was given the day off.

Krejci was the only player not spotted on the sheet at Ristuccia Arena as the Bruins worked at a fast pace for 20 minutes with their power play and penalty kill units.

Andrew Ference, one of the team’s leading penalty killers, was back on the ice again and was paired with Aaron Johnson on one penalty kill unit. Julien said toward the end of his media briefing after practice that Ference has not yet been medically cleared by team doctors to play in games.

“I haven’t heard from the medical staff so I’d say the answer is ‘no,’” Julien said when asked about Ference’s medical standing as the defenseman attempts to come back from a left foot injury that sidelined him since Game 5 of the first-round series against Toronto.

Tyler Seguin took Krejci’s spot on the power play with Zdeno Chara, Jaromir Jagr, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic but the units were mixed and matched throughout practice as the team worked more on power play and penalty kill drills than concentrating on specific special teams combinations.

The Bruins will practice one final time on Friday morning at 10:30 at Ristuccia before taking off for Pittsburgh afterward. The Bruins play the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the Consol Energy Center.

For more, including reports from Pittsburgh from DJ Bean, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Pittsburgh Penguins
Pierre McGuire on M&M: Pittsburgh ‘has an answer for the Bruins’ fourth line’ 05.29.13 at 1:00 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to preview the Bruins-Penguins Eastern Conference finals.

Boston’s fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton came up big for the Bruins against the Rangers, playing key roles in Games 3 and 5. McGuire said Pittsburgh’s depth will negate that advantage.

“There was no answer from the Rangers for Boston’s fourth line. … Pittsburgh, I can tell you, has an answer for the Bruins’ fourth line,” McGuire said. ” Paille, Campbell and Thornton aren’t going to run around and dominate the way they did the Rangers. Because guys like Jussi Jokinen, guys like Joe Vitale, who played at Northeastern University, a kid out of St. Louis, guys like Craig Adams, who played at Harvard. You’re going to see, these guys can make a mess and they can put you through the boards as much as Thornton can, as much as Paille can, they can fight as much as Campbell can. That’s going to be the X factor that really helped the Bruins last series, it won’t be as much of an impact this series.”

Andrew Ference, who missed the entire Rangers series with what the Bruins called a lower-body injury, skated with his teammates at Tuesday’s practice. That’s let to discussion about which young defenseman the B’s might sit if the team wants to make room for the veteran. McGuire suggested the B’s might want to give Ference more time to recover fully.

“He’s walking around with a walking boot on, so clearly there’s a problem with the lower part of his foot or ankle,” McGuire said. “It’s not easy to come back from something like that at this time of the year. So, I don’t think they’re in a rush. And Andrew would probably be the first person to tell you: You know what, when a team’s playing as well as Boston’s playing, especially those players, you probably don’t take them out of the lineup.”

Another topic of discussion around the Bruins is whether the team should move Tyler Seguin back up to the second line in place of Jaromir Jagr.

“We saw what Jaromir could do in confined areas against the Rangers, and there were points in that series where he really wanted to take the puck over but he was overextending his shifts and you could see he was breaking down a little bit,” McGuire said. “Tyler, you could see, and I talked to Tyler a couple of times during the series, he was fighting it in terms of getting pucks in, but he was still making plays. I know he turned the puck over a couple of times. That’s going to happen with offensive players, you’re going to turn the puck over because they’re trying to make stuff happen with the puck. It’s the checkers that you can’t afford having them turn it over. Because they don’t do much with it. They chip it in and chip it out, and they usually don’t score a lot.

“Tyler will probably get augmented minutes. I’ve got to believe the coaching staff is seeing what we’re seeing, and that is that here’s a kid that’s got a chance to be a difference-maker, and his speed is going to be huge.”

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Read More: Andrew Ference, Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Matt Cooke
Claude Julien on Andrew Ference decision: ‘We’re not there yet’ 05.28.13 at 5:50 pm ET
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Andrew Ference was back on the ice with his Bruins teammates on Tuesday and talking to reporters. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WILMINGTON — Andrew Ference skated for a fifth day on Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena, but for the first time with this teammates as he looks to come back from a left foot injury.

Ference was spotted walking with a walking boot on his left foot last Saturday during Game 5 of the series against the Rangers. But according to Ference, he had already been testing the health of the foot on the ice before then.

Ference injured the foot in Game 5 of the opening round against the Maple Leafs on May 10. He has not played in a game since.

“There’s no schedule,” Ference said after Tuesday’s skate, in which he was paired with defenseman Aaron Johnson. “It’s just a matter of go when you can go. I don’t think everything was ever put on a calendar. I think it was day-to-day the whole time, wasn’t it? That’s the way I’ve always viewed it.

“The last couple of days I had great skates. Today was the fifth day on the ice so it’s been really good. Obviously, it’s different when you get other guys on the ice and can actually practice. But to have four days completely on your own to do ‘Hockey School’, it’s nice, it really is. It’s kind of actually rare to get that kind of ice time to do exactly what you need. It’s beneficial.”

Ference said he’s been in a good position since he hasn’t felt rushed to return to a situation where he might not be 100 percent.

“You have help from other people when you’re dealing with something but at the end of the day, nobody knows who you feel except you. You’re not going to put yourself in a position you’re not ready for,” Ference said.

As for coach Claude Julien, he sidestepped questions about whether Ference, a leading penalty-killer for the Bruins, would earn his spot back when declared healthy and ready to go. Ference would likely nab the spot of Matt Bartkowski at this point, with Dennis Seidenberg already supplanting Dougie Hamilton last Saturday in Game 5 against the Rangers.

“You know what? We’re not there yet and until we’re there, I’m not answering those questions,” Julien said Tuesday. “It’s like we’re trying to get ahead of everything here. We’re not even close to starting a series. We’ll let him skate a little bit with us and see how he does. When the times comes, I’ll be more than happy to make that tough decision.

“It’s a good sign that he’s practicing with us. I don’t know. Again, it’s a medical issue that unless the trainers say it’s a go – sometimes he may be ready, but could be a risky kind of ready. We’ll wait and see what our trainers say and how Andrew [Ference] feels, as well, before we make any decision on him.”

Read More: Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg
Matt Bartkowski on M&M: ‘It’s not my call’ who suits up for Bruins at 2:16 pm ET
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Mat Bartkowski

Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski checked in with Mut & Merloni on Tuesday afternoon to chat about the upcoming Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins.

Bartkowski and fellow call-up Torey Krug have played well since joining the team in the postseason following injuries to veteran blueliners. With Andrew Ference and Wade Redden back skating with the team, coach Claude Julien might soon have to make a roster decision.

“I don’t really think about it too much,” Bartkowski said. “I’m just trying to keep playing and assuming that I am going to play in the games. It’s not my call once it comes down it, who plays. All I can really do is put my best foot forward and see what happens.”

Bartkowski said the fact that he started the postseason playing in the AHL rather than sitting in Boston has played to his advantage.

“I think it was key that I went back down to play in Providence,” he said. “I think if I was just sitting up here and riding the bike, I don’t think I could have played the way I have. We were playing playoff hockey in Providence. It’s not the same level or speed or anything like that, but all in all, it’s still playoff hockey and you’ve got to bring the same intensity. That made a world of difference in being able to prepare for the role I’ve assumed up here.”

A Pittsburgh native who grew up a fan of the Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr-led Penguins of the 1990s, Bartkowski knows the Bruins will have their hands full with this edition of the Pens.

“Pittsburgh, you don’t want to call them an All-Star team, but they’ve got a lot of high-end talent,” he said. “I guess they’re more of a risk-reward team [than the Rangers]. I think it will be a pretty good matchup. We’re pretty defensively sound and we’re a strong team. It will be a fun series to play in.”

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Read More: Andrew Ference, Matt Bartkowski, Sidney Crosby, Torey Krug
All present as Bruins prepare for Penguins at 11:15 am ET
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WILMINGTON — For the first time in four days, the Bruins practiced on Tuesday. For the first time in weeks, all players were on the ice.

Andrew Ference and Wade Redden joined the rest of Boston’s defensemen in the practice as the B’s practiced for the first time in anticipation of the start of the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins this weekend.

The lines, color-coded by jerseys, are the same for the B’s as they were against the Rangers, meaning Jaromir Jagr is skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand while Tyler Seguin is on the third line.

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

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