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Ference tunes out distractions as playoffs take hold

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON – If Andrew Ference ran for mayor in the North End, the Boston neighborhood a few blocks from TD Garden in which he lives, he would probably win.

He might even have a shot at that office city-wide if he chose to get into politics once his playing days are finished.

Between his work in the community around the Bay State and his continent-wide efforts with organizations like Right to Play and the David Suzuki Foundation, the Boston Bruins defenseman is a well-known and well-rounded citizen. Yet on the ice, there's a beastly side to Ference that makes him an especially impactful factor when the Stanley Cup Playoffs arrive.

That beastly nature, however, sometimes lands him on the wrong side of the law.

When the Bruins resume their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series with the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 3 Monday night at Air Canada Centre with each side having won one game, Ference is scheduled to be back in the lineup. He missed Boston's loss in Game 2 because of a hit that crossed the line. It is the second time he has been suspended in as many seasons.

Ference, who was banned for one game for his hit on Mikhail Grabovski, was also suspended for three games in January 2012 for a hit on New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. However, Ference is not about to change his game.

Ference didn't enjoy taking in his team's exploits Saturday night from the press box, especially when Boston dropped a 4-2 decision.. It was the first Bruins playoff game he had to miss since he was injured during Boston's second-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009.

"It's neve-wracking. You sit up there and I think I probably bruised [teammate Kaspars Daugavins'] arm hitting him so many times," Ference said. "I mean, I just hate it. But that's the way it is. Like I said, hopefully I just get back to normal, and get playing and I feel like I can contribute. So that's how I'll start."

Lest anyone find it difficult to reconcile the gentile off-ice man with the tough-as-nails on-ice player, part of what makes Ference great on and off the ice is that he throws himself 100 percent into whatever endeavor. On the ice, the 5-foot-11 blueliner has to approach the game that way in order to overcome any disadvantages in size and speed. As he's gotten older, the 34-year-old has found more ways to make himself valuable to his team.

"He does play a gritty game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "You've seen him drop the gloves when he's had to. The good thing about Andy is he's team-first, and that's what he's always been; that's why he's been a really valuable player wherever he's played."

Ference might be another one of those players who's more valuable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs than during the regular season. In addition to joining Johnny Boychuk to form an excellent second defense pair during the Bruins' run to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship, Ference produced 10 points in 25 games, after he'd had 15 during the regular season. Last season, he had four points in seven playoff games and he was in the thick of the Bruins' transition game in their Game 1 victory last week.

"I don't know. It's a fun time of year," Ference said. "You just kind of, literally, you just play like there's no tomorrow. I mean, I think it's exciting. You get a little more jazzed up for it. At the same time, I'm not really sure. You eat the same stuff, sleep the same way. There's just a little, I guess, more buzz around the room and the rink and stuff. You kind of feed off it a little bit."

Ference is finishing up his contract with the Bruins, but the singular focus demanded by the playoffs has put that oN the back burner. Although he's made his mark on the franchise and the city, he says he's not feeling nostalgic about a possible last run in black and gold. It's just another postseason with the one goal of the Cup in his mind.

"Every game can be your last," Ference said. "C'est la vie. Like I said, you've got to embrace every one."

Ference lost one game to suspension. Now he's ready to make up for it during might be a long series.

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