NEW YORK -- The Bruins later today, prior to tonight's faceoff here with the Rangers, will provide an update on the injured Andrew Ference, who hobbled off the ice Thursday night when felled by a slapshot by Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov.
The shot hit Ference, 26, in a leg or ankle, in the final moments of the second period. With play continuing (no whistle), he was able to regain his feet and continued to play in obvious pain before finally making his way to the bench, where he remained until everyone filed to the dressing room at the end of the period.
According to a team spokesperson here for the morning workout, GM Peter Chiarelli, making his way to Manahttan from Boston, will have word on Ference upon his arrival at the rink early this evening.
The club announced Friday that Ference would not play here tonight, nor in Toronto tomorrow night. Thus far, the club has shared virtually no details as to the nature of Ference's injury.
''You go through these things in the course of a season, and you deal with it,'' coach Claude Julien said following the practice here at Madison Square Garden. ''It's a big loss for us. But someone has to step up, and this is an opportunity for [Matt] Hunwick to get in there.''
Reporter to Milan Lucic, favorite son of Vancouver, as he made his way down the hallway near the Ranger dressing room: ''These guys beat the Canucks for the Cup in '94.''
Lucic: ''Yeah, I know, I saw the banner out there [hanging in the MSG rafters]. I don't like it. Don't remind me.''
Lucic's right hand sported a half-dozen or so nicks from his beatdown of Habs defenseman Mike Komisarek Thursday night on Causeway Street. Word around Montreal is that Komisarek suffered a separated shoulder in the bout.
Many injuries incurred in hockey fights are caused by falls to the ice rather than from punches, of which Komisarek absorbed many from the powerful Lucic.
''Could have been that,'' mused Lucic. ''But when I fight, I like to grab guys like this....''
Lucic reached out his left arm and cautiously grabbed a passerby up high around the left shoulder, and cocked his right arm in mock fighting fashion.
''So something might have happened there when I grabbed him,'' he said.
Lucic figured he and Komisarek brought about a combined 470 pounds to the bout. The Bruins sophomore winger plays just under 230 pounds, while Komisarek, the same heigth as Lucic (6-feet-4), plays at around 240.
''A lotta pounds there,'' said Lucic.
Julien will not reveal his starting goalie, on game days, or even in cases of national emergency, but based on the workout, it appeared that Tim Thomas will ge the call.
Blistering hot of late, 5-1 in his last six starts, Thomas rode the bench Thursday when Manny Fernandez cakewalked to a 6-1 win over the Habs. Fernandez is 3-0 in his last three starts.
Boston special teams have been at their best since Julien's arrival as bench boss at the start of last season. Consider:
- The power play, paced by pair of Marco Sturm strikes vs. the Habs, has connected at a 5-for-17 clip (29.4 percent) over the last four games.
- The penalty-killing units, a perfect 2-for-2 vs. Montreal, has stopped 20 of the oppositions 21 power plays (95.2 percent) over the last five games.
Also, over the last nine games (8-1-0), the Bruins outscored their opposition, 22-9. Keep in mind, it looks like 23-9, based on final scores, but the 2-1 win over Chicago Wednesday night came via shootout. Marco Sturm scored the only Boston goal that night. Blake Wheeler and P.J. Axelsson each scored during the shootout.
Rookie Blake Wheeler, who grew up in Minnesota, got his first look at MSG this morning. His eyes were almost as wide as he is tall (6-feet-4).
''It's great...looking around at all the history,'' said Wheeler, examining photgraphs of some famous entertainers along the Garden's walls near the Boston dressing room. ''It's an exciting building.''
Growing up, Wheeler said, he watched a lot of MSG games that were televised.
''Turn on the TV, and it was easy to tell, this is where the game was being palyed,'' he said.
Wheeler was a North Stars fan until the franchise moved to Dallas for the start of the 1993-94 season.
''When they left town, it was kind of a crapshoot,'' he said. ''But overall, I'd say I became a Red Wings fan. When the North Stars left, there was really no one to cheer for, but my dad was from Detroit, so I went with the Wings. They won all those Cups so, hey, it was easy to cheer for them.''
Julien no doubt will keep his lines the same tonight. The defense pairings, without Ference, looked this way in practice:
Zdeno Chara-Aaron Ward
Shane Hnidy-Matt Hunwick
Mark Stuart-Dennis Wideman
Julien figures that the smooth-skating Hunwick could grow into an effective puck carrier, a very valuable commodity in today's game. No one has a sufficient number of puck-lugging defensemen.
''I don't want to make comparisons, because I don't like to do that,'' said Julien, who was a career minor-league defenseman. ''But his skating is very smooth, and in that way, he's like [Brian] Campbell in Chicago....he just glides on the ice. The way he skates, he could carry the puck like Campbell.''