NHL playoffs 2013: Andrew Ference progressing in return

USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Ference is hoping to return in time for the Eastern Conference Finals.

Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference took part in a skate with team strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides on Monday morning. The hope is that he is nearing a return.

Ference has been out of the lineup since sustaining an injury to his left foot during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was forced to miss the entirety of the team's second-round meeting with the New York Rangers, which concluded on Saturday.

The Bruins' next opponent will be the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals. If all goes according to plan, Ference will be available for Game 1. However, it remains to be seen how far along he is in his recovery. Head coach Claude Julien stated that it was too soon to determine when Ference would be ready.

The Eastern finals will begin as soon as the Western Conference Finals is set. The Detroit Red Wings will have a chance to close out the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night, but could face a Game 7 on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks will meet for Game 7 on Tuesday night. That means the Bruins and Penguins could begin their series on either Friday or Saturday, which gives Ference a few days to gauge how close to a return he is.

Given the discreet nature of standard operating procedure, Ference's status for Game 1 likely won't come prior to game time. Best case scenario, the team's hand is tipped at that day's morning skate.

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