Bartkowski scratched after he 'really struggled' vs. Wild

Bartkowski scratched after he 'really struggled' vs. Wild
March 19, 2014, 1:45 am
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NEWARK, N.J. – Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski has done an admirable job of stepping up his game this season in the absence of the injured Dennis Seidenberg, and it’s one of the reasons Boston has maintained its standing at the top of the Eastern Conference. But the young defenseman struggled on Monday night against the Minnesota Wild, and had a couple of mental breakdowns that led to prime scoring chances for the Wild.

The most egregious was leaving things wide open for Jason Pominville off an offensive zone faceoff in the closing minutes of the second period. Bartkowski had started going toward the net as the puck quickly exited the zone headed toward a streaking Pominville, who beat Tuukka Rask for a breakaway goal that infuriated Claude Julien on the Boston bench.

Given that Corey Potter hadn’t yet played for the Boston Bruins and Bartkowski had struggled in his last game, Julien made the call to sit Bartkowski Tuesday night as a healthy scratch. Potter took Bartkowski's spot in the Bruins' 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, and played an uneventful, no-frills game in 15:09 of ice time. Things could change further for Friday’s game at Colorado, with Johnny Boychuk a possibility to return to the lineup, but Julien left little doubt that most of Bartkowski’s healthy scratch was performance-related.

“It gave us an opportunity to see Potter, and he hadn’t played in about two months,” said Julien. “But at the same time I thought [Bartkowski] really struggled in the last game [vs. Minnesota]. They’re young players, but at the same time I want them to learn that they have to work hard to be consistent every game.

“I don’t want any of those guys to assume that they’ve got a spot wrapped up on the back end. I don’t want them to think it’s going to be automatic no matter how they play. It’s a message that I think helps a guy grow as a pro.”

Andrej Meszaros flipped over to the left side in place of Bartkowski for Tuesday night’s game, and played well in 20-plus minutes alongside defensive partner Kevan Miller. Bartkowski is a minus-2 in his last five games, and ended on a tough note against Minnesota.

But it’s pretty clear Bartkowski will get placed back into the mix again soon given the consistent, solid way he’s played for long stretches of the season.