Ference would help team sharpen its skates
WILMINGTON — Andrew Ference, only able to watch his teammates since Feb. 26 instead of play alongside them, has witnessed a four-game stumble that’s left the Bruins just 2 points ahead of Montreal.
“It’s obviously not as sharp as we could be,’’ Ference said yesterday. “The shots against are very against our nature. Probably a little bit too much time in our end. Not clean enough transitions. Turnovers in the neutral zone. Just way too many shots. That just means, whether they’re quality or not, they have too much time to get a clean look at the net and put something there.’’
Those are areas of deficiency that Ference’s mobile and dependable game could address.
Yesterday, for the first time since he was belted by Victor Oreskovich in a knee-on-knee hit, Ference joined his teammates for practice at Ristuccia Arena. Ference was joined by Steven Kampfer, who also practiced for the first time since suffering a concussion March 3.
There is no guarantee of either player’s availability tomorrow against Columbus. But their impending returns, especially that of the battle-tested Ference, are welcome news for a club winless in its last four.
“Just keep going and adding a little bit each day until you’re ready to play,’’ said Ference, who participated in light contact. “It’s one of those things where you add something more, make sure it’s not too bad the next day, and go from there.’’
Ference suffered the injury in the first period of the Bruins’ 3-1 win over Vancouver. As Ference retreated into the defensive zone, retrieved the puck, and sent it the other way, Oreskovich stapled him into the end boards. The fourth-line forward appeared to catch Ference’s right knee.
“Usually when you see the guy, those are the hits you’re ready for and they’re fine,’’ Ference said. “I saw him coming. The way you get hit sometimes, some quirky ones happen. A couple thousand times and once in a while, one of them catches you a little bit funny. Nothing you can do.’’
Kampfer rode a stationary bike Wednesday but had headaches that night. After a day off, he went through an off-ice workout Friday. Kampfer skated Saturday, then hit the ice again yesterday.
He has been cleared by the medical staff to return to game action, so it will be up to Kampfer and the coaching staff to determine when would be best for him to play.
“Kind of rusty out there a little bit,’’ Kampfer said. “It’s only a week. But it shows that a lot of stuff can go in a week. I felt good. A couple more days before Tuesday will definitely help.’’
The Bruins have allowed an average of 38 shots per game in the last four matches. They give up 33.3 shots per game, tied with Carolina for most in the NHL. Coach Claude Julien often dismisses the high total, explaining that his goalies can stop the first shot. Julien’s greater concern is scoring chances.
But even if Julien’s theory is correct, the recent spike in shots allowed indicates a lack of puck possession by the Bruins. Ference and Kampfer are two of the team’s more efficient retrievers and puck movers. Upon their returns, the Bruins can expect to have the puck more.
“With both players, it’s a lot of their decision,’’ Julien said of when either defenseman would be available.
Seguin in limbo In five of his last six games, Tyler Seguin has skated on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. But for the last two games, Seguin has been a healthy scratch. He could sit out a third straight game tomorrow.
Yesterday, Seguin practiced on the third line with Mark Recchi, Chris Kelly, and Michael Ryder. It’s a line for which Seguin’s speed and skill are a better fit. The fourth line’s identity — Campbell, Thornton, and Daniel Paille — is about energy and checking, elements that are not currently part of Seguin’s portfolio.
“He’s definitely a player that belongs on a top-three line [more] than he does on the fourth,’’ Julien said. “There’s some times you’ve seen him on the fourth line because I think he needs to play to not go stale. So does the other guy who’s been sitting out at times [Paille].
“We’re headed toward the playoffs. You certainly want some experienced guys to be there. At the same time, we’ve been a pretty healthy club so far that it hasn’t really allowed for certain players to go into the lineup consistently.
“We’ve seen [Seguin] come out in certain games and really play well. After a while, it tapers off a little bit. It’s part of growing into a good pro. I keep saying it over and over again. I’ve told him so many times. I know he’s going to be a great player in this league.’’
Rest day for Chara Zdeno Chara didn’t practice. According to Julien, Chara has played through flu-like symptoms the last few games. Julien said the defenseman was suffering from dehydration after back-to-back setbacks against Buffalo and the Islanders . . . Defenseman Shane Hnidy will travel with the team on the three-game road trip. Hnidy could be available later this month . . . Brad Marchand is one strike away from the 20-goal mark. However, Marchand hasn’t scored in eight games. Julien believes that is a factor in the rookie’s undisciplined play, which cost him third-period ice time Friday. “He hasn’t scored in a while, and from 19 to 20 is a big thing for him,’’ Julien said. “There’s no doubt there’s some frustration there. That’s where he’s got to say, ‘You know what? Those kinds of things are going to come. I can’t let the rest of my game get affected by that.’ ’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.