Bartkowski ready to jump into Bruins lineup

Bartkowski ready to jump into Bruins lineup
November 11, 2013, 12:45 am
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WILMINGTON -- Matt Bartkowski’s teammates couldn’t resist giving him a hard time when the media crowded around his locker Sunday afternoon following practice at Ristuccia Arena. The attention was warranted because the 25-year-old is expected to enter the lineup on Monday afternoon when the Bruins face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Veteran’s Day matinee with Adam McQuaid “doubtful” to play with a lower body injury.

Bartkowski also got in one game a week ago in a loss to the New York Islanders when Johnny Boychuk wrenched his back, and has an assist along with a minus-3 rating in three games this season. So it goes without saying that the young Bruins defenseman is excited to get back into the flow of things.

“I’m ready. I’ve been skating, riding the bike and practicing, so I’m ready to play,” said Bartkowski. “It takes a shift or two to get back into it, if that. But I like to challenge myself to back to my level. A longer period of sitting out is obviously worse than a short stretch sitting out, so [the Isles game] helped.

“That game [against Toronto] was intense. A lot of hard-hitting and a lot of up-and-down, fast action, and it looked like a lot of fun to play in. It makes you want to play, so hopefully I’ll be in there soon.”

Claude Julien wouldn’t tip his hand for the afternoon tilt against the Bolts, but feels that Bartkowski has reached the point in his professional career where he can handle sporadic playing time until something opens up for him. The B’s defenseman might not immediately morph into the quick-skating D-man capable of lugging the puck out of trouble, and soaking up big minutes at both ends of the ice. But the Bruins know that player is in there, and only game reps will bring out the player that led Boston in points during the preseason.

“No matter how you look at it, it’s always tough for a guy that hasn’t played much to come into the lineup,” said Claude Julien. “We’ve said that about [Chad] Johnson too. Tuukka [Rask] has played a lot of games, so it’s been hard for Chad to get on a roll. We realize that.

“It’s the same thing with Bart. We’ve seen him at his best, and we’ve seen how good he can be. Maybe he doesn’t give us that right off the bat, but hopefully with some games under his belt he’ll get more comfortable and confident.”

It seems a lock that Bartkowski will be in against the Lightning on Monday afternoon, and that the McQuaid injury was serious enough to give him his most consistent playing time to date over the next few games.