Bartkowski handles scratch team-first

Bartkowski handles scratch team-first
June 3, 2013, 3:15 pm
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PITTSBURGH – It had to be a bitter pill for 24-year-old rookie and Mt. Lebanon, Penn. native Matt Bartkowski to take a seat in the press box for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Penguins team he grew up cheering. His mother, father and other members of the Bartkowski clan all had tickets to the game, and all of his friends would be watching, either from the stands or on NBC.

But seasoned veteran Andrew Ference was fully healthy and ready to play, and coach Claude Julien correctly determined that the veteran, feisty, defensive presence of his alternate captain was something he couldn’t leave off the ice.

Bartkowski spoke with his family in the bowels of the CONSOL Energy Center after what had to have been an individual disappointment, but the youngster was as happy as anybody that Boston won the hockey game.

The Bruins have always done a good job of putting the individual ahead of the team, and Bartkowski is no different.

“Matt has grown immensely on and off the ice," coach Claude Julien said. "His approach right now is all he wants is for our team to win. If he's not in, he's going to be supportive of his teammates. At the same time he's going to be ready when his name gets called to play. He's been great, and especially in this unique situation where he's at home [in Pittsburgh]. There's no doubt is has to hurt a little bit. But he's able to put priorities first, and he's thinking about our team right now.”

The good news for the 6-foot, 196-pound Bartkowski is that he’s shown more than enough during this season’s playoff run while averaging 19:47 of ice time in seven games, and Boston knows they’ve got a couple of young blueliners pushing for NHL jobs next season and beyond.

Bartkowski will likely get this chance again, whether it’s in this series against his formerly beloved Penguins, or later on down the line in a Black and Gold uniform.