In an interesting turn of events Thursday night, the Boston Bruins recalled defenseman Matt Bartkowski night from Providence 24 hours prior their fifth game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Garden. The reasoning, as revealed by Claude Julien after the morning skate: Wade Redden is day-to-day with an injury.
This leaves another big decision for the Bruins bench boss. Does he take a chance and break up the Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg pairing as he did in Game 2 and put in Dougie Hamilton? Or does he go with Bartkowski - a left-handed shot - and keep the Chara-Seidenberg combo in place?
Bartkowski filled in for Redden alongside Adam McQuaid during the morning skate, so all indications point to the latter of the two scenarios. But Julien will make the final decision on Bartkowski or Dougie before Game 5.
“Well, we’ve got two [options], Obviously Dougie and Bart,” said Julien. “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.”
Like many in The Hub of Hockey, Bartkowski, who’s fresh off helping the Providence Bruins in their five-game come from behind series victory over the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup Playoffs, was surprised to hear the news last night.
“It was kind of unexpected. I figured I’d be down there,” he said. “I came up to practice today after a tough series down there. We were down 2-0 and we won three games, which is great.”
Unlike the grueling schedule the Black and Gold encountered in the final month of the 2013 regular season, Bartkowski did get a week off for Providence between Games 2 and 3. After Game 4 in Hershey, he had a few extra days off to prepare for the fifth and deciding contest at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
Even after the call up, a day after the P-Bruins completed their first round series, Bartkowski still feels fresh and hopes to contribute.
“We had almost a week off after the first two [games] and the next three, so I feel great,” Bartkowski said.
With injuries piling up on the Bruins’ blue line during the last month of the season, Bartkowski saw some playing time with the big club. In 11 games, the Pittsburgh native tallied two assists and averaged a hare over 13 minutes per night.
Bartkowski’s last game with the Black and Gold came on April 20 where he saw 13:33 of ice time. After that, he went down to Providence to get more time and stay fresh.
That is perhaps the most important factor for Bartkowski as he hopes to see his first playoff action in a potential series clincher tonight.
“I think it makes a world of a difference compared to if I were just sitting around, bag skating and stuff like that,” Bartkowski said. “I think that it helps a lot.”
“It’s good that he’s been playing. That’s why we sent him down there [to Providence],” Julien said about Bartkowski. “At one point, we knew what we were going to start with in the playoffs, so because we had the ability to send him down we wanted him playing for that reason so that if we need 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.”
His role will be much of the same for all bottom pair defenseman if he’s in the lineup tonight: keep it simple.
The past month and a half has been anything but simple for Bartkowski, but tonight could be different against a desperate Leafs squad, who he’s seen on two occasions during the 2013 season.
“Other than the games we shared...the rest of them I could watch,” Bartkowski admitted about his viewing of the Bruins-Leafs series. “Right now we’re firing on all four cylinders so it's a good feeling to have right now.
“Playing playoff hockey down there, it's not NHL [caliber] but it’s still playoff hockey. It’s still the same mentality and the same style of play. And I’ve played against Toronto in the regular season, so I’ll be ready to go.”
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