Ference wants new Bruins deal: ‘I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this team’

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On the verge of unrestricted free agency and a month away from his 34th birthday, Andrew Ference is thinking about his future.

“There’s a lot invested emotionally into this team,” the Bruins defenseman told the Boston Globe. “We’ve accomplished a lot. Beyond that, the city is obviously home for us and our family. So it weighs heavily to know where things are at.

“The team has their numbers with what their budget is. They probably have a good idea of where I’m at. It’s a matter of me waiting patiently, I guess.”

After spending the first seven years of his career in Pittsburgh and Calgary, Ference joined the Bruins in 2007 in a trade that saw he and Chuck Kobasew head to Boston in exchange for Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau.

In 2010, he signed a three-year, $6.75 million extension with the B’s and proceeded to win the first and only Stanley Cup of his career.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Bruins approach Ference’s contract situation. He’s been largely a third-pairing defenseman during his time in Boston, averaging around 18-19 minutes a game while chipping in around 15-20 points per season.

If 2011-12 was any indication, Ference still has plenty in the tank. He scored a career-high six goals and finished with 24 points — third amongst all Boston defensemen.

As for the future…

The Bruins have five NHL defensemen under contract for next season with youngsters Torey Krug, Matt Bartowski and David Warsofsky on the horizon. So there certainly seems to be a spot for Ference, which means the conversation will likely come down to dollars.

So, could a hometown discount come into play? Ference says he’s been thinking about his future a lot lately, and knows one thing — he wants it to include Boston.

“I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this team,” Ference said. “The makeup and the fabric of this room – the environment.

“I’m at a point where there’s more important things in life than a couple extra bucks here or there. If you can have a good family life and live in a good city, it’s pretty tough to put a price on that.’’

Hobbled Penguins hoping to be ‘healed up right around playoff time’

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Ron Hainsey arrived in Pittsburgh from Carolina a month ago on the verge of reaching the playoffs for the first time in his 14-year career.

The durable defenseman found an odd but perhaps apt way to fit in with his new team: He got hurt. Ten games into his tenure with the Penguins, Hainsey went down with an upper-body injury to join an increasingly long line of familiar faces watching in suits from the press box rather than wearing sweaters on the bench.

“Injuries happen,” Hainsey said on Tuesday after skating with his teammates, an important step toward his hopeful return before the postseason begins next month. “Obviously, this team we have a lot of them.”

So many to so many bold-faced names — from Hainsey and fellow defensemen Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley and Kris Letang to star center Evgeni Malkin and energetic young forwards Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary — that it’s remarkable the defending Stanley Cup champions have been able to hang around in the chase for the Metropolitan Division and the Presidents’ Trophy.

“It’s been crazy around here,” said defenseman Justin Schultz, one of only five players to miss fewer than five games so far. “You see so many guys walking around, it’s wild.”

The wear and tear from trying to keep it together with a threadbare lineup, however, is beginning to show.

Pittsburgh’s hopes of catching first-place Washington took a hit during a third-period implosion on Sunday night at home against Philadelphia as the Flyers poured in four goals over the final 20 minutes of a 6-2 win that left the Penguins three points behind the Capitals with seven games to go.

It was a rare forgettable night in a season that’s showcased both the brilliance of center Sidney Crosby (who’s 42 goals lead the league) and the laser focus preached by coach Mike Sullivan.

There have been few signs of a Stanley Cup hangover. The Penguins have the fewest home losses in the league and they’ve kept Washington and Columbus within arm’s reach despite the kind of health issues their two rivals have largely avoided.

The key now, even with players on the verge of returning, will be keeping it going. While the odds of Pittsburgh emerging from the three-way race – and avoiding a first-round matchup against the other runner-up – are iffy at best, don’t expect the Penguins to ease up in an effort to rest for the playoffs.

“Our experience has been that you just don’t flip a switch and turn it on,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to have to go into each game with a mindset of trying to win.”

Pittsburgh went 8-2 over its final 10 games of the regular season last spring then rolled to the franchise’s fourth championship. Putting together another surge will be difficult, though there were promising signs during a crowded post-practice dressing room.

Sheary, who left the loss to the Flyers with a lower-body injury, practiced on Tuesday and should play on Wednesday when Chicago visits. Jake Guentzel, who suffered a concussion last week after getting hit illegally by Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen, skated but no timetable has been set for his return.

The rookie, who struggled getting off the ice after being leveled by Ristolainen, called the hit “just a hockey play,” though it ended with Ristolainen receiving a three-game suspension.

The line of Guentzel, Sheary and Crosby had almost single-handedly kept Pittsburgh’s offense going with Malkin out. They’re optimistic they’ll get a chance to recreate the mojo before the regular season ends.

“You don’t want to limp into the playoffs, losing a few games,” Sheary said. “I think momentum is a huge thing in this game. If you’re playing well going into the playoffs, I think that carries over big time.”

Getting familiar faces back in the lineup before mid-April is critical.

On that front at least, the Penguins appear to have been spared. It seems everyone has a chance to be in uniform when things get going for real.

“It seems like all the injuries are supposed to be healed up right around playoff time,” Sheary said.

“Hopefully we can get those guys back and use it to our advantage.”

School’s out: McAvoy signs ATO with Providence Bruins

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Charlie McAvoy is done with college hockey.

The 19-year-old defenseman is leaving Boston University to sign an amateur tryout with the Providence Bruins. It’s expected he’ll make his AHL debut this weekend.

McAvoy was drafted 14th overall in 2016 by the Boston Bruins. In addition to starring for the Terriers the past two seasons, he was named to the World Juniors All-Star Team after helping the Americans to the gold medal in 2017.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney did not rule out the possibility of McAvoy making his NHL debut this season. (If McAvoy does, he’ll burn the first year of his entry-level contract.)

As for the other BU star and Bruins draft pick, Sweeney said forward Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson has yet to decide whether to go pro.

Forsbacka-Karlsson, 20, was drafted 45th overall in 2015.

IOC resistant to NHL’s demand to be treated like Olympic sponsor

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In order for the NHL to keep sending its players to the Olympics, Gary Bettman wants the IOC to treat his league more like an Olympic sponsor gets treated.

“We don’t even get the opportunity to promote the fact that we’re at the Olympics,” Bettman lamented earlier this month. “We don’t get to use the rings. I’ve said to the IOC, you know, Coca-Cola is a sponsor, they get to promote their association and say ‘proud sponsor of the Olympics.’ They won’t let us do that.”

It’s not a wholly unfair request by the commissioner. The NHL has to disrupt its season to send players to the Games, and the owners have to risk the health of their stars.

That said, it doesn’t sound like the IOC is going to budge.

“Obviously, this time the owners of the NHL clubs are putting more commercial conditions to the IOC and the Olympic movement,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told Reuters.

“The IOC knows that the NHL understands that the Olympic movement cannot treat the owners of a commercial franchise of a national league better than an international sports federation or other professional leagues with regard to the Olympic Games.”

Translation: The IOC isn’t about to open a can of worms. (See: Mark Cuban, NBA participation)

Recently, NHLPA chief Donald Fehr summed up the NHL’s desire to get compensated for Olympic participation.

“Based on the proposals to us and the suggestions to the IOC, they don’t care who pays them,” Fehr told Postmedia. “They just want somebody to.”

And according to Fehr, it won’t be the players who pay the NHL.

So if the players aren’t going to give the NHL anything, and the IOC isn’t going to give the NHL anything, well, you see the problem.

Bylsma calls Reinhart’s rule violation, subsequent benching ‘disappointing’

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There was a strange sight during Buffalo’s 3-1 loss to Columbus on Tuesday night: Sabres forward Sam Reinhart, fully dressed, sitting on the end of the bench.

And not moving.

At all.

Reinhart was parked for the entire 60 minutes last night, which the Sabres later revealed to be punishment for violating team policy. According to a Buffalo News source, the 21-year-old showed up late to a meeting in the team hotel.

Suffice to say, Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t happy with the situation, or the outcome.

“We’re going to move forward from here,” Bylsma said. “Disappointing, but it happened and we dealt with it. We’re going to move on from here.

“We’re part of a team. We do things as a team. That’s hopefully the lesson.”

This isn’t the first time Reinhart’s run afoul of Bylsma this season.

In late October — and with Reinhart failing to find the back of the net — Bylsma said the club needed to get more out of the sophomore forward, who had 23 goals and 42 points as a rookie last season.

That said, Reinhart has exceeded his point total from last year, currently on 46, and has been a steady lineup presence (well, aside from last night). He’s one of just a handful of Sabres to appear in 70-plus games this season, and saw his TOI jump up to 17:15 per night.