-- At least now, the TD Banknorth Garden press box is safe from the outbursts of Andrew Ference
The Bruins defenseman was forced to watch his team's first-round series against Montreal in street clothes after suffering a lower-body injury on April 4. He says it was not an enjoyable experience.
"I'm not a very good spectator," he said
He was finally liberated from his personal purgatory on Friday -- not only cleared to play after a week of hard practices during Boston's long layoff, but also inserted into the lineup against Carolina for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
"I'm happy to be back in," Ference said Friday night after Boston's 4-1 series-opening victory. "It is a lot more fun being in here before the game, in the locker room getting ready with the guys. It’s great to a part of it again."
Ference was a regular part of it in his return. It was almost like he did not miss a beat, playing 20:09, including a few shorthanded shifts. He finished with one shot, one hit and two blocked shots.
"It's nice to get back to what I am used to," Ference said "(The 20-minute mark) is right around what is normal for me."
Ference gets 20 minutes a game because he is a good complementary defenseman in the Bruins' system. He can bring a little bit of offense -- as evidenced by his 16 points in just 47 regular-season appearances -- but he is also quite accomplished in his own end.
Coach Claude Julien
likes the fact that Ference is so versatile -- and that he has experienced the playoffs before, going all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final with Calgary in 2004
"It was important for him to keep it simple, but he’s been in this position before – he’s got playoff experience," Julien said. "He’s in great shape, he felt 100 percent ready to go, and that’s the only reason we would have put him in because we’ve had some guys playing extremely well, and before you take out a player that’s playing well and put him in, you’ve got to make sure he’s ready, and he was.
"I liked the way he handled himself tonight -- very poised and kept his game simple and, again, utilized him for the way he played, and that was a pretty solid game on his part."
That most likely means Ference will be in the lineup again for Sunday night's Game 2 -- good news for the Bruins and the press box inhabitants at the Garden.