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Defensive Depth Gives B's Options with Ference Out

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - On Thursday evening, the NHL announced that Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference had been suspended for one game for "an illegal check to the head of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski during Game One" on Wednesday.

With the veteran blueliner unavailable for Saturday's Game Two, Ference, for one, isn't too worried about his teammates stepping up in his absence.

"It's the decision that the league makes, as a player you deal with it, but as far as having a public opinion, I don't think it benefits any player to express any opinion about it," Ference said after taking part in Friday's practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.

"Like anybody that's gone through a process, you have a discussion with the league and Peter [Chiarelli] and we have a chance to give our thoughts to them and I think that's probably as far as it goes in these kind of matters. You just accept it and go on to the next game."

"Guys will step right in and it will be no problem," he added, on the Bruins' back end not missing a beat. "It's hockey, if it's an injury or something like this, guys have to step up and do the job."

Following the skate, Coach Julien voiced his confidence in his blueliners in Ference's absence Saturday. The 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton was a healthy scratch for Game One against Toronto and the last three games of the regular season.

When asked if Hamilton was the blueliner stepping in Saturday, Coach Julien said, "we’ll see. We’ve still got a day here, we’ve got lots of D’s that are available. We’ll make that decision [Saturday]."

Though, if the youngster does get in the lineup, Coach is confident the transition would be seamless.

"He might be a young player for the playoffs, but to me, at this stage, the amount of games that he’s played, he’s a veteran," said Julien of Hamilton. "We don’t look at guys, necessarily as rookies, we look at them as young players, but he’s a young player that’s going to be playing his first game, if not tomorrow, soon."

"I think that’s the thing with him, he’s played enough hockey to understand what’s at stake here. We have no issues, whether it’s him, whether it’s [Aaron] Johnson, even [Matt] Bartkowski that’s in Providence, we have those choices."

Hamilton played six out of the Bruins' final nine regular season games - three with him as a healthy scratch, getting time to rest and also view the game from up above in the press box.

"We played lots of hockey, we’ve seen enough of Dougie to know exactly what he can bring to our team," added Julien. "The rest is certainly not something that’s going to hurt him."

"I know people seem to wonder why we talk about him being rested, it’s simple: I’ve said it before, he’s played more hockey than any player on our team. When you start in August and you represent Canada not once, but twice, and then you play your junior games with your team, and you play the minutes that he played, then you come over here and play the schedule that we had, he deserved a rest."

"For that part, I think he’s going to come back a better player when he does come back."

Whether Dougie Hamilton is in Saturday night or not, the D-man is looking forward to his first taste of NHL playoff hockey.

"I haven’t been told yet that I’m in so [I’m] just hoping that I get that opportunity," said Hamilton following Friday's practice.

"I think just from last game obviously the pace is a lot faster and the Leafs work really hard and they finish their checks," he added, on what he'll have to be ready for when he does get the insertion into the lineup. "So I’m just going to have to be ready for that."

The extra motivation for Hamilton would come with playing against his hometown team. Though we've seen how calm he was during the regular season when facing the Leafs, there's still a level of excitement.

"I grew up watching the playoffs and dreaming about playing in the playoffs," said Hamilton. "So I think just going through my career so far I remember a lot of playoff games [in juniors] and hopefully I can bring some intensity."

Whether he gets in the lineup Saturday or not, Hamilton has had the benefit of his roommate, Adam McQuaid, lending him advice.

"I just said to him, just to stay ready, that chances were for playoffs that you’re going to need everybody at some point in time, so really that was about it, to stay ready, make sure that he was keeping himself focused and making sure everybody knows that they’re part of the team," said McQuaid.

"An important part of the team no matter how big of a role they’re playing or whether they’re in or out of the lineup."

In Friday's practice, McQuaid was paired with Zdeno Chara during the B's five-on-five scrimmage, Dennis Seidenberg with Johnny Boychuk, and Wade Redden with Hamilton.

If the pairings are as such come Saturday, McQuaid will consistently be going up against the Leafs' top line.

"He’s done that job before. I don’t think that’s an issue," said Julien. "With Mac [Adam McQuaid], it’s always confidence with the puck, it’s never about defending. Mac’s been a pretty good defender, physical, he can handle the speed, he can handle the size, so he’s probably been appreciated a lot that way."

And as a veteran of 100-plus NHL playoff games, Redden knows that Hamilton will also step up and do his job, if given the chance.

"He's obviously a real good young player, going to be his first game if he gets in," said Redden. "He'll be excited and ready to go, I don't think anything really changes from my standpoint. He's a guy that's been here all year and done a good job, so he'll step right in."

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