Bruins notebook

Next stop is Ward's - again

Veteran will miss at least two games

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / January 15, 2009
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WILMINGTON - On Nov. 29, Aaron Ward sprained his left ankle, an injury that sidelined him for the next four games.

Ward came back Dec. 12 against Atlanta, but lasted only two shifts before he realized his ankle wasn't ready for NHL battle. Ward missed the next six games, returning against the Thrashers Dec. 28.

Three games later, on Jan. 3, Ward suffered a charley horse when he tried to hit Buffalo forward Matt Ellis. After sitting out the next game, Ward was back in the lineup against Ottawa Jan. 8.

The in-and-out pattern will continue.

In Tuesday's second period, when he was pasted from behind by Montreal forward Andrei Kostitsyn, Ward aggravated the charley horse, an injury that kept him from traveling with his teammates to Long Island yesterday. Ward will miss at least the next two games, with coach Claude Julien estimating he might be shelved for a week.

Ward's latest setback (he's missed 11 games) underscores the possibility that because of his in-your-face style - eager to thump and rarely hesitant about filling lanes to block shots - his presence will be far from dependable for the rest of the season. Ward, who turns 36 Saturday, is on the books through 2009-10 ($2.5 million annual cap hit).

Ward's perpetually black-and-blue body, combined with the plateau of Andrew Ference's recovery from a fractured right tibia, might be enough of a concern for general manager Peter Chiarelli to seek blue-line depth. The preference would be to acquire a top-four defenseman, but cheaper veteran help might be the more conservative approach for now.

Ference, who traveled with the team yesterday, will be working with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides to build up the area around his right ankle. Ference had originally hoped to be back in uniform by now, but early last week, he had to apply the brakes on his recovery, recognizing he's still not fit for game action. Ference said the tibia is healing well, but the muscles and ligaments around the fracture are not strong enough for drills, hard stops and starts, and the quick movement required of mobile defensemen. Ference will not be available tonight against the Islanders or Saturday against Washington.

"It feels good, but you definitely have to be at a high level to play hockey in the NHL," Ference said. "It's one thing to feel good and healed up from the surgery. It's a whole other thing to get back to the level where you can play professional hockey."

After Tuesday's 3-1 win over Montreal, the Bruins brought back Matt Lashoff on emergency recall, and the 22-year-old will serve as Boston's sixth defenseman against the Islanders. Lashoff, who's averaged 12:54 of ice time through 13 games, will need to take even more shifts to take minutes away from Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman. Boston's top two defensemen each played more than 30 minutes against the Canadiens.

"Certainly not the type of minutes tonight that we want to see every night," Julien said after the win. "But every once in a while, they have to bail us out."

Traveling party
Ference will be joined on the two-game trip by Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic. Bergeron and Lucic were among 10 Bruins who breezed through a light practice yesterday at Ristuccia Arena.

"I'm feeling much better," said Lucic, who's been out the last three games because of an undisclosed injury. "Now I'm going in the gym and doing some things to try and get back to where I was. Right now, I'm heading in the right direction. I feel better every day. I wouldn't say I feel 100 percent yet."

Lucic, who has yet to participate in a full-contact practice since suffering the injury, is doubtful for the next two games. Bergeron will not be available for either game. But the Bruins believed that it was good for Bergeron, Lucic, and Ference to hit the road and get back into the rhythm of being around the team, especially with Whitesides making the trip to push them during rehab.

"I think the players will appreciate seeing them along, too," said Julien. "They're at a stage where they can kind of practice with the team, obviously staying away from the contact part of it for now. They're taking a step closer to returning."

Feeling better
Manny Fernandez, out of uniform the last two games, will be back with the team tonight, most likely backing up Tim Thomas. The Boston Herald first reported that Fernandez was sidelined with back spasms, which he has experienced occasionally during his time in Boston. "Tough to say," said Fernandez, when asked if there was a specific play against Ottawa Jan. 8 when he felt some pain. "It didn't even hurt the same day. It hurt the next day. You certainly don't want to press on when there's a little thing there. You don't make it worse. I think it was caution, be out a couple days just to make it relax, calm down, and let the inflammation go away. Now I'm back and that's it. You put it behind you."

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at

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