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Bruins, Penguins claim center stage in Boston

by Matt Kalman /

BOSTON -- After the Boston Bruins dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday night, many Bruins players went out with some of the first-responders who had attended the game two days after the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Then Friday night, when the Bruins should've been playing the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden, Andrew Ference and his teammates joined with the rest of the country watching some of those first responders and their law-enforcement colleagues apprehend one of the marathon bombing suspects after an intense manhunt that lasted nearly 24 hours.

Ference, while preparing for a Saturday afternoon game against Pittsburgh, reflected on how much we should all appreciate what those people do. The game against Pittsburgh was scheduled for Friday night but was rescheduled because the city was locked down by governmental request while the manhunt continued.

"It's not just last night. The thing about those guys is they have to do that every night. [Friday] night was obviously a lot more attention and it was under the scrutiny of the media and what not, but those guys have a tough job all year," Ference said. "You're so proud that they get recognized on terms like that last night, when they have obviously the national stage. But there's a lot of incredible people.

"The first-hand stories; the other night we were out and heard some pretty crazy stories of what they went through, and I know for them we're a good outlet for them. They're all pretty [excited] to watch us, so we'll try to give them something to cheer about and try to cheer them on as much as possible too. But I'm pretty impressed with what they do."

From pregame warmups to the national anthem to the chants throughout the game Wednesday, it was an emotional night. That shouldn't change much now that the healing process will take its next step with both suspected bombers off the streets. Emotions should again ride high Saturday afternoon.

"I'm sure there'll be a lot of proud people in the stands again today," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "I don't expect anything different. It's great that I heard the streets were packed last night after this happened, and I'd expect that to carry into today in the crowd."

It's not every day you get to see the coach of anyone but the Bruins wear a shirt with a spoked-B on it. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, though, wore one of the black "Boston Strong" shirts being sold at the Garden during his pregame media session. All the proceeds are going to the One Fund Boston, which benefits victims of the bombings from Monday.

Bylsma said he hopes his team embraces the opportunity it has to assist Boston's recovery.

"Clearly, we're all watching for days now and being here [Friday] and being in the hotel being inside kind of certainly became a part of the situation and a part of what the city of Boston was going through," he said. "And I think although we weren't a part of it, the celebration outside as a city and as a people last night and just feel like it's a great opportunity to play a game with the city of Boston, not just against the Bruins but with the city and with the Bruins."

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