- James Murphy, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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With Andrew Ference very likely out with an undisclosed injury for Saturday’s tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Boston Bruins called up defenseman Matt Bartkowski from Providence (AHL) on emergency basis for the second time in the last week. Bartkowski, ironically, was called up last Monday just prior to the Bruins’ dramatic 4-2 comeback win at
Pittsburgh, and both he and head coach Claude Julien joked about the fact that the rookie’s only two NHL games now have been against Bartkowski's hometown team.
“We kind of saved him for the Pittsburgh games,” Julien joked about Bartkowski, a native of Pittsburgh. “We send
him back down and then bring him back up.”
Bartkowski was asked if he thought he might ever play a different team in the NHL?
“Yeah maybe someday, who knows?” Bartkowski said with a laugh. “Maybe the rest of my career I’ll just play against Pittsburgh.”
All kidding aside, both the young puck-moving defenseman and Julien do like the benefit of Bartkowski having faced the Penguins already this season and the familiarity it brings for Saturday's matchup.
“[I]t’s kind of good because of that last game, I’m a little more familiar with the team,” Bartkowski said, "so from my standpoint it’s good to be able to see the same team again."
“You’d think it would [help] because when you've got very little experience in this league and you see the same team twice, at least there’s familiarity there and hopefully that will make him a little more at ease,” Julien said. “But no doubt it’s certainly not an issue getting up for those kind of games. As we’ve said, [Bartkowski's] being from there, he’ll be excited to play those.”
It was also good for Bartkowski that he was able to get in a practice with the Bruins prior to his second NHL game. When he was called up for last Monday’s game, he was thrown right into the fire against one of the best teams in the league. Julien sees a youngster who is growing more comfortable with his surroundings at the NHL level.
“It’s good for him to get a practice with our hockey club, and again, I had mentioned that I thought his first game he handled himself well and he’ll get more comfortable,” Julien said. “I think we’ll see him get better and better as he plays with us.”
Bartkowski agreed that Friday’s practice would only help him.
“It was great,” he said. “It eased my nerves a lot and just getting out there, skating around and getting a little more familiar with the guys, it was good to be able to do that because last time I jumped right into the game so it
made it a little more difficult.”
While playing his first NHL game in his native Pittsburgh was the ultimate thrill, Bartkowski is excited to play a home game in TD Garden.
“Really excited! Finally get to play a game in the Garden,” Bartkowski said with a big grin. “A couple preseason games [in TD Garden] but not the real thing so I’m looking forward to it.”
7dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald