NHL notes: Bruins' Ference nearing return

Boston Bruins' Andrew Ference (21) skates up the ice past New York Islanders' Kyle Okposo, February...

Boston Bruins' Andrew Ference (21) skates up the ice past New York Islanders' Kyle Okposo, February 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

The Boston Bruins' back end could get a boost when the Eastern Conference final against the Pittsburgh Penguins gets under way later this week.

Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference, who missed the entire series against the New York Rangers after getting hurt in the first round win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, skated Monday with team strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides. The rest of the team was held off the ice.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said Ference, who hasn't played since Game 5 against the Leafs due to a lower-body injury, has been skating for a few days but isn't quite ready to get back in the lineup.

"He's obviously on the mend, but not ready to say he's ready to go yet," Julien said during a press conference Monday.

Ference and Wade Redden both sat out the entire series with the Rangers, opening the door for rookies Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug to get a taste of the playoffs. All have performed well, leaving Julien with a tough decision when Ference finally feels good enough to go.

"At one point you make a decision and it doesn't mean that it's an easy one, because it's not," he said. "We'll deal with it when the time comes. We did it with (Dennis) Seidenberg. And if Ference becomes available, we'll have to deal with that, too."

Redden is close to returning as well. And Seidenberg came back in Game 5 of the second-round series, meaning the Bruins are almost at full strength.

"We're pretty good, actually," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told CSN New England. "We've got Andrew out, he's making progress. Wade is close, if not ready. Just the bumps and bruises are minor. We got Dennis back. We're in pretty good shape right now, knock on wood."

NHL MEETING GLENDALE

Representatives of the NHL and a group that wants to buy the Phoenix Coyotes will reportedly meet with Glendale city officials Tuesday in an effort to hammer out a lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena.

Renaissance Sports & Entertainment, a group led by Canadian investment banker George Gosbee and Ice Edge CEO Anthony LeBlanc, will sit alongside NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an effort to get a lease with the city-owned arena, which would keep the Coyotes in Glendale. Mayor Jerry Weiers and other council members will sit on the other side of the table.

"If he's doing what I asked him to do, which is to not bring us anything unless he had it 100% ready to go, if he thinks they're ready to go, we'll see what they've got to propose," Weiers told The Arizona Republic. "Hopefully, we can put something together, but like I've told everybody all along, it's always going to be public safety first. We're not cutting into our general fund to support a hockey team."

The league has reportedly approved the sale of the franchise to Renaissance but it is contingent on reaching a lease agreement with Glendale. The NHL bought the team in 2009 after it filed for bankruptcy and has been trying, so far unsuccessfully, to find a buyer who will keep the Coyotes in the Phoenix area.

Ice Edge previously tried to buy the Coyotes but a deal was never reached.

LIFE WILL GO ON

New York Rangers forward Brad Richards could have his contract bought out over the summer but it sounds like he's not losing sleep over the possibility.

"That's been written since probably a week into the season," Richards said. "That's the business side of it. I'm playing hockey next season no matter what. I signed for longer than a year and a half, but I do understand everything that's going on."

Richards just finished the second year of a nine-year, $60 million contract he signed in 2011. He made a pro-rated $12 million for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

But he had just 11 goals and 23 assists in 46 regular-season games then managed just one goal in the playoffs and sat out the Rangers final two games against the Boston Bruins. That's not nearly enough production for a player making that kind of money.

"Everything was a mess," Richards said of his season. "I'll be honest, I didn't feel normal all season," Richards said. "There are a thousand things I can blame and put excuses on, but I'm not going to do that. That's something I can start in my control in the next couple of weeks and do everything I can off the ice and training and skating to get back because obviously there was something missing."


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