WILMINGTON, Mass. -- There are so many variables affecting what the Boston Bruins' defense corps will look like when the Eastern Conference Finals begin Saturday night.
If everyone is healthy, the Bruins could try to defend the Pittsburgh Penguins with the same top four defensemen who won the Stanley Cup in 2011: Zdeno Chara paired with Dennis Seidenberg, and Andrew Ference coupled with Johnny Boychuk.
Rookie Matt Bartkowski could be in the mix to play top-four minutes, and Chara and Seidenberg could be split up. With so many days to prepare before facing the Penguins, the Bruins are trying out different scenarios. One drill at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday featured everyone rotating in and playing with different partners every shift.
Anything is possible prior to Game 1, and coach Claude Julien told the media he hasn't ruled out any and every defensive combination
"It's good, because you saw us during the season, we mixed and matched. And you guys kept asking a lot of questions about that and I said, 'You know what? It's important that we do that because at some point they’re all going to have to play with each other,'" Julien said. "And guys can play right that are left shots, or vice versa. And even during the game we still mix and match pairs sometimes. It's not necessarily set pairs that you see on the ice all the time. So that's not going to change."
Ference is working his way back from an injury he sustained in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 10. He hasn't played in a game since; Wednesday was his second day back on the ice with the team. It's hard to believe a veteran who won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 could be fighting for a job, but that's a position Ference could be in because of how well Bartkowski and rookie Torey Krug have played in the postseason.
"We're not there yet and until we're there, I'm not answering those questions," Julien said when asked about Ference getting back into the lineup. "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 time comes, I'll be more than happy to make that tough decision."