A more mature Bartkowski looking forward to his shot

A more mature Bartkowski looking forward to his shot
March 23, 2013, 2:45 pm
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TORONTO – With the Bruins suffering their fourth major injury in the last two weeks, the roster depth becomes more and more challenged by everything that’s going on around him.

Chris Kelly (broken tibia) and Adam McQuaid (shoulder strain) are both out with injuries for roughly the next month and Johnny Boychuk will miss at least Saturday night’s game with a right leg injury after getting hit with a shot at Friday’s practice. So the Bruins have brought 24-year-old rookie defenseman Matt Bartkowski from AHL Providence up to replace Boychuk in the lineup, and give the youngster his first NHL look of the season.

Word from the B’s organization is that Bartkowski is a bigger, stronger, more mentally mature player that he’s been in his other emergency stints with Boston over the years, and should be ready to step into the lineup after totaling 24 points (3 goals, 21 assists) in 56 games for the P-Bruins.

There were moments in his other games with Boston in years’ past where he would dwell on a bad play or two during the game. Bartkowski agreed with that assessment, and he’s been looking forward to his chance with Boston all season.

“I’ve progressed a lot as a player. I feel like I’m ready now whereas I might not have been a couple of years ago,” said Bartkowski. “I think it’s definitely maturity as a player. Defensively I’m more responsible and more consistent every single night. It’s all different areas of the game.

“I don’t think I ever questioned myself, but I think maybe others question me about my game a little. Now if something goes wrong I can turn it around on the very next shift.”

Claude Julien sees it as an opportunity for a guy like Bartkowski, who has been fairly unremarkable in his previous nine scoreless games with the Bruins over the previous two years. He was a minus-4 in those games and seemed to have a hard time shaking off bad shifts.

Both Bartkowski and the Bruins say those troubles are a thing of the past, and that could be a very good thing for a Black and Gold club that needs him.

“He’s a big body that moves the puck well and skates well,” said Claude Julien of Bartkowski, who originally came to Boston in the trade that also netted Boston Dennis Seidenberg. “He’s steady back there.

“It’s a good opportunity here to show what he's capable of at this level. We're confident he's going to be fine back there.”

The stint for Bartkowski with Boston is clearly out of need given the injuries to both Boychuk and McQuaid, but there’s also a dual purpose to the young defensemen getting a look at the NHL level. Bartkowski is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and could be seen as a valuable trade piece for a team looking for young defensive help at the deadline.

So it would benefit the Bruins in more ways than one if the former Ohio State defenseman can show that he’s elevated his game to a higher level this season. He’ll get that chance against the Leafs in a Hockey Night in Canada appearance on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.