Bartkowski ready to make NHL playoff debut

Bartkowski ready to make NHL playoff debut
May 10, 2013, 2:15 pm
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BOSTON -- Matt Bartkowski got plenty of amusement when he heard his name bandied about as a possibility to replace the suspended Andrew Ference for Game 2 of the Bruins/Leafs playoff series.

It was largely because he was in Hershey, Pennsylvania embroiled in his own AHL playoff series between the Providence Bruins and Hershey Bears, and hadn’t heard anything about it himself. Even worse the 24-year-old defenseman wasn’t sure how he was going to make the commute to Boston unless Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs ordered the team charter on a special trip to pick him up.

“A couple of the guys told me that when Claude said it, and I was like ‘well, I’m just sitting here in Hershey.’ What am I going to do, jump on a horse [to get to Boston]?” said Bartkowski. “I figured [Julien] was trying to get in [Toronto’s] heads a little bit.”

As it is Bartkowski had been playing some of his best hockey of the season in the AHL playoffs, and put up five points in five playoff games for the P-Bruins. He was preparing to face the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins in Friday night’s series opener until he got word that Wade Redden was out with an injury, and his services were needed in Boston.

Claude Julien said that Redden (day-to-day) will have his spot filled by either Bartkowski or Dougie Hamilton, but the fact Bartkowski is a left-handed shot should be the deciding factor that puts him in the lineup.

He’s also physically stronger than the 19-year-old Hamilton, and gained the trust of the Bruins coaching staff during his 11-game stint during the regular season.

“One’s a right shot and one’s a left shot, and we have to decide what we want to do with our pairings here,” said Julien. “Once we decide that we’ll know who to put in. It’s good that Bartkowski has been playing. That’s why we sent him down [to Providence].

“We wanted him playing, so that if we needed him he wouldn’t be sitting for a long time. That’s exactly what happened right now. We’ve got a chance to bring him in.”

Sliding Bartkowski on the left side means that the Bruins won’t have to split up the top shutdown defensemen pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, and that’s an optimal goal at this heightened point with the first elimination game on tap for the playoff series.

He skated in a defense pairing with Adam McQuaid at Friday’s morning skate, and feels like he’s ready for the challenge coming off a hard-fought playoff series.

“I feel great. It makes a world of difference compared to if I was just riding the bike and getting bag-skated. It changes things a lot,” said Bartkowski. “Playing playoff hockey down there isn’t exactly the same as the NHL, but it’s still playoff hockey with the same intensity and mindset.

“I also played against Toronto during the regular season, so I’ll be ready. This team is clicking on all cylinders and the feeling around here is pretty good right now, so I hope I can join in.”

It seems just about 100 percent that Bartkowski will be joining in for Friday night’s Game 5, and will be able to show exactly how far he’s come from the guy that almost got traded away for Jarome Iginla little more than a month ago.