March 5, 2011

Bartkowski gets yet another shot against hometown Pens

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski. (Getty)

BOSTON -- There are strange coincidences in hockey, but nothing quite like the curious case of call-ups for defenseman Matt Bartkowski.

 The 22-year-old blueliner will be appearing in his third NHL game tonight for the Bruins, as they'll take on his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

 Bartkowski's last game with the big club came back on Jan. 15, a 3-2 setback at TD Garden against the Penguins. This came just five days after he made his NHL debut in a 4-2 win in -- say it ain't so -- Pittsburgh.

 Faced with deciding which blueliner to call up from Providence after losing Steve Kampfer to a concussion, the Bruins choice to bring up Bartkowski seems like a no-brainer.

 "I would say so," coach Claude Julien said when asked if the familiarity with the Penguins should help Bartkowski. "It’s ironic that that’s three times against the same team and his hometown. But he knows this team that he’s playing against tonight."

 Surely the exposure to the way the Pens play aided his cause, but Julien was quick to point out how that wasn't the sole reason Bartkowski was called upon.

 "If anything he’s got some experience against them, so hopefully it will help him and probably make him relax a little bit more," Julien said. "But he’s a guy we know is a good player and will eventually be with the team and just continues to progress down there. Let's see how good he is now that he’s on his third call-up."

 The Bruins bench boss expects to see Bartkowski playing with a bit more confidence in his abilities this time around, as he has continued to round out his game down in Providence.

 "Yeah, it’s not so much what he had to work on," Julien said when asked what his parting words were for Bartkowski the last time he was returned to the AHL. "It was more about the experience. And again, those guys come up and they don’t want to make mistakes. And they might be a little hesitant like a guy who’s struggling to find his game.

 "But the third time around, you hope that he’s got more confidence than he did the first and second time and he just comes out and plays his game. I think eventually guys start getting a little bit more confidence and more comfortable at this level where they start doing a little bit more. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that from him."

Prior to his most recent promotion, Bartkowski had five goals and 16 assists in 55 games for the P-Bruins. He'll be looking to record his first point at the NHL level tonight.