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Now that he’s actually in Boston, Matt Bartkowski ready to contribute

Matt Bartkowski knew there was a possibility he’d be able to join the Bruins during the playoffs at some point, but he was a little confused when he was first rumored to get the call.

When Andrew Ference [1] was suspended for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Maple Leafs, Claude Julien [2] told reporters the day of that game that Bartkowski was a possibility to replace him in Boston’s lineup.

There was just one issue, though. Bartkowski wasn’t on the team. He hadn’t been called up and he was in Hershey with the Providence Bruins for their playoff series, yet reporters unaware of the situation went with it and wrote that Bartkowski might be in Saturday’s game.

“A couple of guys on the team told me that, and I was just kind of wondering, like ‘Well, I’m sitting here in Hershey. Can I just jump on a horse and ride over?'” Bartkowski recalled Friday with a laugh. “It was kind of funny.”

Indeed, no arrangements were made to zip Bartkowski to Boston, and he stayed with Providence through their first-round series win over Hershey. He was preparing for the second round against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when the Bruins recalled him Thursday night. With Wade Redden ruled out for Game 5 of the Bruins’ series against the Leafs, Bartkowski is likely to step into the lineup.

While fans may clamor for Dougie Hamilton‘s services rather than Bartkowski’s, Bartkowski is the better fit because the B’s need to replace a left-side defenseman in Redden, and Bartkowski is a lefty. When the Bruins put Hamilton, a righty, in place of the left-shooting Ference in Game 2, they had to break up their top pairing of Zdeno Chara [3] and Dennis Seidenberg [4] in order to move Seidenberg to the left side. Not only was that a lot of work, but they lost the game due to shaky defensive play. With Bartkowski, the B’s can just slide him onto the third pairing in place of Redden, just as they did in Friday’s morning skate by pairing the 24-year-old with Adam McQuaid.

Bartkowski was sent down late in the season because the Bruins had extra defensemen but couldn’t send Aaron Johnson down to Providence without him having to clear waivers. Given that, they sent Bartkowski down to get more game experience, and he picked up five points (all assists) in the five-game series against Hershey.

His play at both the AHL and NHL [5] levels has Bartkowski feeling more confident this season than in past campaigns. He admitted earlier in the season that he was too afraid of making mistakes in his Boston stints the last two seasons (nine total games), but that this season and his first professional playoff experience has prepared him for this challenge.

“Now I know how to play and I know I can play my game at this level,” Bartkowsi said. “Then playing playoff hockey down there — because all in all, it’s the same, playoff hockey, anywhere. It’s just different speed, size and pace.”