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Matt Bartkowski: ‘Hopefully I play well enough so they can’t take me out’

11.21.13 at 12:40 pm ET
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Matt Bartkowski had no intention of coming out of Tuesday’s game against the Rangers when, with Dennis Seidenberg already done for the game, he crashed into the boards and hurt his left leg. He also has no plans on coming out of the Bruins’ lineup.

After getting banged up, Bartkowski missed the remainder of the second period Monday, as he likened it to hitting one’s funny bone and said he “couldn’t really move.” He returned to play the third period and appeared hampered, though he said Thursday that he wasn’t dealing with anything more than a little tightness. He still managed to log over 21 minutes in the game.

“It would have had to be something that the trainers would have had to tell me I couldn’t play,” Bartkowski said Thursday. “There’s five D; you’ve got to play.”

Thursday’s game will be the sixth consecutive contest in which Bartkowski has played for the Bruins, which will double the three games in a row he got last month when Claude Julien did some shuffling on the back end to get him some ice time. With Seidenberg out at least a week, it doesn’t look like Bartkowski will be exiting the lineup in the immediate future.

Obviously, Bartkowski finds himself in a position where he should be extremely motivated. He’s been given games here and there this season, but he has been the team’s seventh defenseman, and this stretch of games provides him as good a chance as any to earn a full-time job on the B’s blue line.

“Of course,” Bartkowski said. “Whenever I do get into games, especially this longer stretch, hopefully I play well enough so they can’t take me out.”

Bartkowski has played the last five games on a pairing with Johnny Boychuk. He’s generally been fifth among defensemen in time on ice (Torey Krug has played less), with Tuesday’s 21:13 the most he’s played in an NHL regular-season game (he played more in overtime games last postseason against the Maple Leafs and Rangers).

With the exception of a couple of stretch passes in the neutral zone getting past him Tuesday, the results have been solid. He had a two-point first period Friday in Ottawa and was a plus-2 Monday in Carolina. His skating game obviously is a departure from what the stay-at-home McQuaid brings, but Bartkowski has been sound in his own zone as well.

“Obviously, the more you play, the better you get,” Julien said. “I think he’s skated better. He seems more confident now. He got banged up a little bit last game and sucked it up and kept playing.

“There’s a lot of good things that have come out of Bart: growing as an athlete with experience and his knowledge of the expectations and everything else. He’s definitely a guy that I think is playing better all the time and we’re starting to rely on him a little bit more with some of these injuries.”

The question of whether Bartkowski can earn himself a full-time job in the Bruins lineup remains open-ended, but fortunately for him it doesn’t appear this audition will be ending any time soon.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Bartkowski,
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