WILMINGTON — On Friday, Andrew Ference wore his usual black practice jersey for the Bruins’ on-ice session at Ristuccia Arena. On Saturday, he will be in suit and tie at TD Garden to serve his one-game suspension.
Ference will be watching Game 2 of the Bruins-Maple Leafs first-round series from the press box because of his illegal check to the head of Mikhail Grabovski in Game 1. Ference will be eligible to play in Game 3 in Toronto Monday.
“It’s a decision the league makes,” Ference said. “As a player, you deal with it. As far as having a public opinion, I don’t think it benefits any player to express any opinion about it.”
On Thursday afternoon, Ference participated in a disciplinary hearing on the phone with NHL head of player safety Brendan Shanahan.
Ference, along with Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, explained his perspective on the play, in which he drove his left arm and shoulder into Grabovski’s head. No penalty was called. Grabovski was not injured. Ference declined to share how he explained the incident to Shanahan.
Ference’s absence will have a trickle-down effect on the Boston defense. Dougie Hamilton, a healthy scratch in Game 1, will most likely make his NHL playoff debut. Hamilton practiced with Wade Redden on the third pairing Friday.
The draft pick the Bruins used to select Hamilton in 2011 originally belonged to the Leafs. Hamilton, Tyler Seguin, and Jared Knight became Bruins property in exchange for Phil Kessel.
“I’ve done a lot of bike rides, practices here, and working out, too,” said Hamilton. “I feel good. If I get the opportunity, I’m ready.”
Hamilton was a healthy scratch in five of the final eight regular-season games. Coach Claude Julien cited Hamilton’s heavy pre-lockout schedule — Canada-Russia Super Series exhibition tournament, regular-season OHL play, World Junior Championship — as one reason for sitting the rookie out.
“The rest is not something that’s going to hurt him,” Julien said. “I know people seem to wonder why we talk about him being rested. It’s simple. I’ve said it before: He’s played more hockey than any player on our team.
“When you start in August, you represent Canada not once but twice, you play your junior games with your team, you play the minutes that you play, then come over and play the schedule that we had. He deserved a rest.
“For that part, I think he’s going to come back a better player when he does come back.”
Giving Hamilton rest was only one factor. The Bruins wanted to evaluate Redden. The veteran responded by submitting solid performances at the end of the regular season. He then had a goal and an assist in the 4-1 Game 1 win.
The Bruins also wanted to reunite Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, their ace shutdown pair. That left three right-shot defensemen — Hamilton, Johnny Boychuk, and Adam McQuaid — to fight for two right-side spots. None of the three plays his weak side. Experience and rugged defense-first play gave Boychuk and McQuaid the edge over Hamilton.
But with Ference unavailable, the Bruins will most likely change all three pairings. In Friday’s practice, Chara was paired with McQuaid, and Seidenberg moved to the left side and practiced with Boychuk on the No. 2 tandem.
The toughest question is whether to split Chara and Seidenberg. Julien matched the two against Toronto’s No. 1 line, and the two strongmen prevented James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Kessel from scoring at even strength.
Kessel was a ghost: 0-0—0 with just one shot on Tuukka Rask. He also spent some time on the bench receiving treatment on his left wrist. Kessel didn’t practice Thursday.
Kessel’s standard operating procedure of shrinking against the Bruins may be a factor if Julien splits Chara and Seidenberg. The Bruins could believe that Chara and McQuaid can keep Kessel from scoring.
The other concern is how Seidenberg can adapt to the left side, which he hasn’t played since March 25.
“It’s positioning when you receive a pass, and the way you put your feet is a little bit different,” Seidenberg said. “Everything else stays the same. It’s a lot of communicating with a different partner. It’s not that big of a difference.”
If Chara, McQuaid, Seidenberg, and Boychuk are the top four defensemen in Game 2, they will see the bulk of the shifts. Neither Redden nor Hamilton plays a grinding style. The Bruins will have the last change at home, so coaches can keep Redden and Hamilton away from Toronto’s more dangerous and physical forwards.
In Game 1, Toronto landed only 20 shots. The Bruins limited the Leafs to one power-play goal. They defended well and turned defensive plays into scoring chances.
Ference will be out. But that’s the only change the Bruins hope will take place in Game 2.