Ference finishes up stint in Czech Republic


Ference finishes up stint in Czech Republic

Andrew Ference is among the many NHL players headed home this week after his contract concluded with his European team in the Czech Extraliga. Ference had 2 goals and seven assists in 21 games for the same HC Ceske Budejovice that he skated for during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, but is returning to Boston in the hopes that a shortened regular season will be salvaged.
Tracking his twitter account, Ference is spending the holidays with his family in Europe after playing his final game for the Czech League on Sunday. The veteran Bruins defenseman called that final game for Budejovice as one of his most memorable nights of hockey.
Ference joins David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron as Bruins players that have ended their stints with European clubs during the NHL lockout, and now sit in a holding pattern waiting for the final outcome of negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA.
Ference is in the final year of a three-contract extension with the Bruins, and headed to Europe in an effort to hit the ground running when a shortened NHL season did begin in Boston. The Bruins defensemen corps as a whole is in good shape should the NHL season begin in January four of the returning veterans have been playing regularly in Europe and 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton has been logging heavy minutes skating in the OHL and World Junior Championships.
The lockout moved to Day No. 101 on Wednesday and has shown no signs of slowing down as there are still no face-to-face negotiations scheduled between the NHL and NHLPA. Its expected the season will be cancelled next month if the two sides cant finally find common ground on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation


Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

The entire concept of Tuukka Rask getting pushed by one of his backups is based on the backup consistently performing at a high standard, and that wasn’t the case for Anton Khudobin over the weekend.

Just as it isn’t solely the fault of Rask when the Bruins lose, it wasn’t solely the fault of Khudobin that Boston squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday night. But Khudobin couldn’t step up and carry the B's when they clearly started losing their edge in the second half of the game, and that inconsistency will certainly make the Bruins pine for a sooner-rather-than-later return of a concussed Rask.

“Erratic,” said coach Bruce Cassidy when asked to describe Khudobin postgame. “He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. He certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

It was certainly too much to expect Khudobin to be perfect, but they just needed him to be good enough to pull them through while they were getting waylaid in the second half of the game. That proved to be a major challenge, given the players the Bruins are missing and the extremely rough night suffered by Torey Krug (minus-3 on Saturday night, and minus-8 for the season). Khudobin finished with 37 stops as a defense corps without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller wilted in the third period and the overtime, but he couldn’t make the clean saves for whistles when the team really needed them. Case in point was a Rasmus Ristolainen tester in overtime while the Bruins were in the midst of being outshot by a 6-0 margin in the extra session. Khudobin got a glove on it but couldn’t cleanly catch it for a badly needed stoppage in play at a time when Krug, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had been caught on the ice for over two minutes.

"The start was great, and the game was great until we scored the fourth goal, and I think after that, we thought it was an easy game,” said Khudobin. “[The high volume of shots] wasn’t that much difficult, I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net. They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, a lot of scrums in front of the net, which were . . .that’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

Khudobin, 31, has taken five of a possible six points in the games he's played this season and is off to a solid start with a 2-0-1 record, a 2.98 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He looks like he’s going to be a perfectly fine backup, enabling the Bruins to hold Rask to the 55-60 games they’ve forecasted for his peak performance this season.

But Saturday night was a major blow to any hopes that Rask would be pushed competitively by his backup, and that a Khudobin hot streak could spark a slow-starting, and now injured, Rask when he does return.

Instead the Bruins are left to hope they can survive while missing Rask along with a number of other key players, and that the goalie returns sooner than later to a team that can’t survive too many morale-crushing defeats like the choke job against the lowly Sabres.