BOSTON – The Bruins will get one key defenseman back Thursday against Carolina, and are optimistic they won’t be without another important blueliner.
Andrew Ference will return to the lineup after serving his three-game suspension for a hit on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh back on Jan. 21. He skated with Adam McQuaid in Thursday’s morning skate, and it was his partner’s presence that was even more encouraging for the Bruins.
McQuaid suffered a lower-body injury late in Tuesday’s win over Ottawa and did not practice on Wednesday, but expects to be in the lineup Thursday.
“I just kind of lost an edge and went into the boards a little awkward,” McQuaid said. “I just took [Wednesday] to let things settle down. It felt good this morning. I’m not sure if there’s been a decision made yet, but it felt good skating this morning.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien stated that a final decision on McQuaid’s status hadn’t been made, but also expected McQuaid to be good to go.
“As far as we know he should be ready to go, but we’ll probably leave it as a game-time decision,” Julien said. “But he looked good this morning and we anticipate that he’s going to play.”
McQuaid was just as happy to know that Ference would be back.
“It’s a big boost,” McQuaid said. “He’s been a real solid contributor to our team this year and a steady presence. He’s a guy that plays in all situations and can play up and down the lineup, so it will be a big boost to get him back.”
Ference’s return bumps Steven Kampfer back to the pressbox. Kampfer played just 21:56 total in the three games he replaced Ference and didn’t make much of a case for more ice time. Ference himself has played more minutes in a single game five times this season and has averaged 18:29 this season.
Ference is second to only Zdeno Chara in scoring among Boston defensemen with 4-16-20 totals, and had 2-2-4 totals in his last three games before his suspension.
“I think he’s been a pretty stable force back there for us,” Julien said of Ference. “I’ve liked his game this year. He’s been a real healthy player and I think that’s what’s kind of held him back in the past as far as people appreciating him for what he really is. Because every time he’d come back, he’d have to find his game again, but he’s been real consistent. He’s been reliable. I think he’s had a great year, so getting him back in our lineup will give us that experienced guy we can lean on a little bit more and maybe take some of the ice away from the guys getting heavy minutes.”
There will be no changes up front. Nathan Horton remains sidelined with a concussion and has still not begun any off-ice workouts.
“He’s still where he was a few days ago,” Julien said. “Like I said, feeling better but not well enough to get to that stage of working out.”
Rich Peverley will remain in Horton’s spot alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic, with Zach Hamill on the third line with Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot.
Tuukka Rask was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate and is expected to get the start in goal. Cam Ward is expected to start for Carolina, as he has in almost every game this year. Ward has played in 45 games so far this season, while backup Justin Peters has appeared in just two. Ward is 3-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA and .948 save percentage against the Bruins this season.
The Hurricanes will get defenseman Jaroslav Spacek back after he missed the last seven games with a facial injury, but forward Chad LaRose will miss the game with an illness.
“LaRose didn’t make the trip,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “He’s got flu symptoms, but he’ll be back after this. Spacek was ready before. We just needed a couple skates with him to get him up to par, so he’s ready to go.”
Eric Furlatt and Brian Pochmara will be the referees, with Andy McElman and Pierre Racicot working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Rich Peverley
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Zach Hamill
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Nathan Horton (concussion), Steven Kampfer
Projected Hurricanes lines
Jiri Tlusty-Eric Staal-Tuomo Ruutu
Jeff Skinner-Riley Nash-Jussi Jokinen
Andreas Nodl-Brandon Sutter-Patrick Dwyer
Anthony Stewart-Tim Brent-Drayson Bowman
Jay Harrison-Justin Faulk
Bryan Allen-Tim Gleason
Jaroslav Spacek-Jamie McBain
Scratches: Derek Joslin, Chad LaRose (illness)