That's good news for the Bruins.
For a guy that doesn't put up gaudy stats or make a lot of plays that fill the highlight reels, Ference has played an integral part in the Bruins' success in recent years. Last year, Boston was 28-16-7 when Ference was in the lineup and just 11-14-6 without him. The club's midseason swoon coincided with his absence with a groin injury, as the first game after he was hurt started a 1-9-4 skid, and Boston immediately won four straight upon his return.
This year, another injury in late February sidelined him for eight games, with the Bruins winning just three of them. After he returned, they went 7-4-1 the rest of the way.
"He's been dealing with a lot of injuries in the past few years and he's had a really good year this year," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Thursday's morning skate in preparation for Game 1 against Montreal. "And he had just the one little setback as far as injuries are concerned, but he's been pretty healthy this year. That's something that's been beneficial for our hockey club."
The Bruins haven't had Ference around as much as they would have liked in recent years. Last year, he missed 31 games, after being sidelined for 35 the previous season and 23 in 2007-08. He also played just three of Boston's 11 playoff games in 2009. Last year, he dressed for all 13 postseason games but wasn't close to full strength as he dealt with recurring groin issues.
"The last couple years, the injuries were really throughout the year, so it's not like they happened two days before playoffs after feeling great all year," Ference said. "I didn't feel ripped off, like I was great all year and all of the sudden I get bad luck right at the end."
This spring, Ference is finally healthy and looking forward to contributing to a long playoff run.
"I was thinking about that the other day, it's definitely nice to feel healthy and feel confident that you can go out there and be at the top of your game," Ference said. "You can play your game. You're not just trying to put something together that's good enough.
"The biggest thing is just knowing that you can contribute in a positive way and be a part of something good, and not have to make a decision before a game whether you're good enough or not to contribute," Ference added. "It's just nice to be healthy."
Ference played 70 games this season, his most since playing 80 in a season split between Calgary and Boston in 2006-07. He put up 3-12-15 totals in those 70 games, along with an impressive plus-22. Despite his past injury history, Ference didn't shy away from physical play, dishing out 74 hits, blocking 82 shots and racking up 60 penalty minutes.
That last number included a career-high four fighting majors, most of those occurring when Ference came to the aid of teammate. Ference has carried that camaraderie off the ice as well, as he is one of the driving forces of the club's strong chemistry.
"He's a guy that has got some experience," Julien said. "He's been around a long time. And not only on the ice but also in the dressing room, he's a good presence in there and he speaks well. And I think he's a good asset to have in the dressing room as much as it is on the ice."
Ference is feeling like himself again after several years of nagging injuries.
"I feel normal now," Ference said. "When you're all banged up, that's when you feel like, 'Yeah, that's not right.'"
Now healthy, Ference is excited about being able to show what he can do on the ice when it means the most.