BOSTON — The Bruins won't have to play without Andrew Ference when they start their second-round series with Philadelphia on Saturday.
The Bruins defenseman had a hearing by phone with the league at 11 a.m. on Thursday to discuss his hit on Montreal forward Jeff Halpern during Wednesday's Game 7. Ference and Halpern collided behind the play in the third period, with Halpern suffering an apparent head injury from the contact.
Play was stopped as Halpern was down on the ice. He went briefly to the dressing room for attention but returned later in the period, and actually had the game-winning shot by Nathan Horton deflect off him and into the net for Boston's series-clinching goal at 5:43 of overtime.
No penalty was called on the play when Ference and Halpern collided, and after Thursday's hearing, the league ruled that no further discipline was warranted, either. Ference was not fined or suspended and will be eligible to play in Game 1 against the Flyers.
"When it first happened I wasn't [worried about a suspension]," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "I thought it was just incidental contact, but when I took a closer look at bit I could see where the league's concerns lie. But when you look at the whole play, we turned the puck over at our blue [line], and when that happens the D are supposed to close off the rim around the wall.
"So he was moving that way and what Andy said is that he just saw a player off his shoulder as he was moving, as he was looking up when he saw the turnover," Chiarelli continued. "His motion and the player's motion, they ran into each other."
Not losing Ference for any games is key for the Bruins. Ference has been a steadying force on the blue line for Boston this season, especially in the first-round series with Montreal. Ference had 3-12-15 totals and was a plus-22 with 60 penalty minutes in the regular season, and added a goal, three assists, seven PIMs and a team-best plus-6 in seven games against Montreal in the opening round.
"He's been, steady is the perfect word to describe Andy," Chiarelli said. "And whoever is his partner, he manages to steady them also. He gives nice flat passes. He's poised. And he's really competitive. He doesn't put up huge numbers, but I think if you look at his plus-minuses and you look at the important minutes he plays, they're not always huge minutes but they're important minutes. And he's got experience. He's been good throughout the regular season and he's been really good in the playoffs."
Ference averaged 21:03 of ice time against Montreal, up from the 17:58 he averaged during the regular season. He began the series paired with Adam McQuaid, but skated primarily with Johnny Boychuk in the final five games after Claude Julien shook up his defense pairings. That pair, along with the top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, drew the bulk of the duties of shutting down Montreal's skilled and speedy top lines, and will be called upon again this series to contain Philadelphia's deep and talented forward corps.