Ference

Ference

Rumor has it that when healthy enough to play in at least 75 games, if not more, Andrew Ference is a legit top-four defenseman who can move the puck and play solid in his own end.

Since he came to the Boston Bruins, we’ve seen glimpses of Ference’s all-around strong play but injuries have made those moments only a little less rare than an on-time flight out of Logan Airport. Ference’s dressing room presence and his team-involving projects to protect the environment are worthy of respect, but Ference is going to have to figure out a way to change his karma in terms of the injuries, which have not in any way been his fault.

Stats: 47 GP, 1-15-16, 40 PIM, plus-7 regular season; 3 GP, 0-0-0, 4 PIM, plus-1 playoffs.

Contract status: Signed through the end of 2009-10 at at $1.4 million cap hit.

Season highlight: In a game that really set the tone for the Bruins’ outstanding regular season, the Dallas Stars tried to take some liberties with Boston Nov. 1 during a 5-1 Bruins triumph at TD Banknorth Garden. The teams combined for 146 penalty minutes, and five of them went to Ference, who met the challenge from Sean Avery and duked it out (see below) to an impressive draw against the then-Stars agitator. Ference also recorded an assist and leveled Steve Ott with a neutral-zone hit in the win, which showed the Bruins were serious about winning games and defending their home turf.

Season low light: During a second-period play that few noticed in the Bruins’ 1-0 win over the New York Rangers April 4, Ference came up lame and didn’t return to the lineup until Game 1 of the Carolina series. While he seemed back to his normal self, Ference only made it to Game 3 before he had to bow out with a reaggravation of his groin injury. For the second time in one season, Ference suffered an injury that would require surgery.

In summation … probably the Bruins’ best all-around defenseman before an Andrei Markov shot fractured his tibia in November, Ference was a more-than-an adequate member of the Bruins’ top four when healthy.

Grade: B. You’d like to see the puck-mover who gets a decent dose of power-play time put a few more points on the board, but it’s hard to make a case for a lower grade for a guy that was bit too many times by the injury bug.

The crystal ball says … Ference is a relative bargain for the Bruins going into next season and he should be among their top four again. But his cap-friendly salary could also be appealing to teams if the Bruins look to put together a package for a big name such as Chris Pronger.

Here’s a look at Ference’s hit on Ott and fight with Avery: