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Bruins might have to rely on Matt Bartkowski again 02.26.15 at 9:30 pm ET
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Matt Bartkowski

Matt Bartkowski

When asked Thursday what he learned from last postseason, Matt Bartkowski brought up an expression that Providence coach Bruce Cassidy tells his players.

“If you don’€™t bring your A game,” Bartkowski said, “œyou’€™ve got to bring your B game.”€

That might not fit any player better than it does Bartkowski. Ups and downs and ins and outs are pretty much all he knows at the NHL level. Getting into the Bruins’€™ lineup has been tough, and when he’€™s played he’€™s been the ultimate trick-or-treat player. Now the Bruins might need him again.

Defense has arguably been the Bruins’€™ biggest need all season, and that was before the B’€™s lost Kevan Miller to season-ending shoulder surgery. After serving as a healthy scratch for a month and a half (17 straight games), Bartkowski was given a game against Calgary during the Bruins’€™ recent road trip and stuck in the lineup after Miller went down.

A trade (or a callup of Joe Morrow) could change things, but for now Bartkowski finds himself in a similar situation as last season. He could be in line to play a top-four role down the stretch, as he did last season when Dennis Seidenberg went down in late December and the Bruins couldn’€™t adequately replace him via trade. Perhaps because the Bruins would rather Torey Krug stay on the third pairing, Bartkowski is almost always used as a top-four player when he is in the lineup.

While an upgrade to Boston’€™s second pairing (Bartkowski-Seidenberg) is needed for the Bruins to make a deep run, Bartkowski’€™s last few games have suggested he’€™ll fare better in the spot than he did earlier in the season, when he and Seidenberg turned in some especially ugly games, including one in which Bartkowski’€™s positioning cost the B’€™s a game against the Avalanche in the final second on a Daniel Briere goal.

It’€™s odd that Bartkowski has looked fine after not playing for a month given that he was a disaster at the beginning of the season, when one would thing he would be physically sharper. Bartkowski himself finds it puzzling, but his priority is keeping his play where it is.b

“To start the year, I wasn’€™t playing well at all, and then when I got in right before the California swing, I started to play well, and then out again,”€ he said. “€œI don’€™t know. It just came around. I’€™m playing like myself again.”

Claude Julien said that while Bartkowski was out of the lineup, the team had him fine-tune things that have left him better equipped now than he was before. Asked what specifically, Julien replied ‘€œa lot of everything.’€

“A lot in all different areas. Sometimes you know you’€™re a natural skater, which I think he is, and you think you can get away with that,”€ Julien said.”But it takes a little bit more than that. You’€™ve got to be prepared as a player. Are you mentally prepared to make plays? Are you ready to put the time in? To be in good shape is one thing; to be in great shape is another.”€

Bartkowski’€™s experience in this role ended the wrong way last year. After Andrej Meszaros was brought in to challenge him, Bartkowski got sick and missed the beginning of the playoffs. When he came back, he was off his game. Meszaros wasn’€™t any better, and the Bruins were forced into a rotation of struggling defensemen playing important games.

“It was just more inconsistent in the playoffs,”€ he recalled. “There was like a good [game], a really bad one, a good one, a really bad one. That just can’€™t happen again.”

The next few days will say a lot about what Bartkowski’€™s role with the Bruins will be going forward, assuming he isn’€™t traded. Forcing their seventh defenseman to play big minutes hurt the team last season, but if it happens again, Bartkowski thinks that with health and improved play, he can handle the job.

“This year, I’€™m gonna hold my spot,” Bartkowski said. “I want to stay consistent. I don’€™t want to have any dips at all.”

That’€™s the right attitude to have, but it’€™s always been easier said than done with Bartkowski and the Bruins.

Read More: Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski,
Kevan Miller reflects on frustrating season as he awaits surgery 02.24.15 at 1:35 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

David Krejci wasn’€™t the only casualty of the Bruins’€™ disastrous five-game road trip.

In a stretch that saw the Bruins lose more players than win games, Kevan Miller’€™s season was ended after his shoulder popped out for the second time this season. He will undergo surgery on Thursday.

The injury ended what began as a promising season for the second-year NHLer but ultimately proved to be more frustrating than anything else.

When the Bruins traded Johnny Boychuk prior to the season, an opportunity was provided for Miller, a right-shot defenseman like Boychuk, to grow into a bigger role. Yet Miller dislocated his shoulder on Oct. 18 and missed the next 13 games. His play on the Bruins’€™ third pairing with Torey Krug was strong given the role that he was in, but Miller’€™s shoulder limited him. He was advised against fighting and admitted Tuesday that he never totally got over the injury when he was playing.

“You always had it in the back of your head; to be honest with you, it was always there,” Miller said. “So I never felt 100 percent, if that’€™s what you’€™re asking. There were times I felt like it was pretty good or I was pretty comfortable with how things were going, and that changes obviously through the season.”

Miller was sixth among Bruins defensemen with 18:02 of ice time per night, but he led the team with a plus-20 rating.

“After I came back from recovery and I started to play, I thought I started to play better, and as the season went on I established myself again,” he said. “For it to happen right now is kind of frustrating. It’€™s more frustrating that I’€™m not able to help the team out. You feel like you almost let the guys down a bit. That’€™s probably my biggest worry.”

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Source: Bruins’ Kevan Miller to have season-ending shoulder surgery 02.20.15 at 5:16 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, a source confirmed to WEEI.com Friday. The news was first reported by Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe.

Miller re-injured his right shoulder in Monday’€™s loss to the Flames. The shoulder was originally injured in a fight against Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers on Oct. 18. He missed 13 games before returning on Nov. 21.

Earlier this month, Miller admitted that he had been advised against fighting again this season by doctors. He also said he expected to have surgery in the offseason.

The Bruins had been using Miller as a third-pairing defenseman, and his loss further weakens a blue line that has seen Zdeno Chara return from a torn PCL injury and Dennis Seidenberg struggle in top-four minutes.

In 41 games this season, Miller had two goals and five assists for seven points and a team-leading plus-20 rating.

The Bruins have not recalled a defenseman and currently have six healthy blueliners. Zach Trotman is the most likely candidate to replace Miller given that he is a right shot, but Joe Morrow, currently working his way back from a knee injury, could be brought up when healthy if the B’s play their versatile left-shot defensemen (Seidenberg, Torey Krug) on the right side.

Miller’s injury could also accelerate a potential trade for a defenseman. The trade deadline is March 2.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Kevan Miller sent back to Boston for evaluation 02.17.15 at 5:04 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters in Edmonton Tuesday that defenseman Kevan Miller has been sent back to Boston and will not play the final three games of the team’s current road trip after re-injuring his right shoulder. Miller will undergo evaluation on the shoulder back in Boston.

Miller initially dislocated his shoulder in a fight in the Bruins’ Oct. 18 meeting with the Sabres and missed the next 13 games. He appeared to reinjure the shoulder in the second period of Monday’s game in Calgary and did not return.

The Bruins have yet to recall a defenseman, but Zach Trotman would be the most likely candidate. Trotman, a right shot, plays the same side as Miller and has already played 17 games for Boston this season.

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5 things we learned as Bruins blow 3-goal lead, lose in last second of overtime vs. Flames at 12:00 am ET
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The example of Murphy’s Law that is the 2014-15 Boston Bruins season really outdid itself Monday night.

After bouncing back from Friday night’s embarrassing loss to the Canucks with an inspired effort through two periods, the Bruins saw Calgary march back to tie the game in the third period, after falling behind 3-0, and beat the B’s, 4-3, on a fluky goal with 2.4 seconds to play in overtime.

With the final seconds ticking down, T.J. Brodie tossed a lazy backhand shot towards the net from a bad angle that went off Brad Marchand‘s stick and up towards the net, then hit the top of the net and Tuukka Rask‘s back before finally going in to give Calgary the 4-3 overtime win (click here for the box score).

The loss was Boston’s fourth straight (0-3-1) and fifth in the last six games (1-4-1).

After pulling Karri Ramo following Boston’s third goal, the Flames and Jonas Hiller did not allow another goal as Calgary scored three unanswered goals in regulation to tie the game and force overtime.

The Flames finished their comeback on a power play goal after David Pastrnak took a high-sticking penalty with 14:42. Norris favorite Mark Giordano fired a snap shot from the top of the zone that went off Jiri Hudler in front and past Tuukka Rask to make it 3-3.

The Bruins next play Wednesday in Edmonton.

Here are four more things we learned Monday.

MILLER LEAVES

Kevan Miller left the game late in the second period and did not return. The second-year NHLer took a hit midway through the second that could have led to his exit, though he took two shifts after that.

Miller missed 12 games earlier this season with a dislocated right shoulder suffered in a fight on Oct. 18. He admitted recently that he will need offseason surgery on the shoulder and that he has been advised to not fight the rest of the season.

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Kevan Miller, Tuukka Rask
Injuries mean jobs: Bruins’ young defensemen should seize moment like those before them 11.20.14 at 3:14 pm ET
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Joseph Morrow

Joe Morrow

Peter Chiarelli will probably never say how many NHL defensemen he thinks he has again.

Since saying that he felt he had nine this offseason, the number has been tested significantly. After trading one of them in Johnny Boychuk, Chiarelli has seen five of his defensemen get hurt in the first 20 games of the season. Of the nine NHL-caliber defensemen Chiarelli said he felt the Bruins possessed, the only three who haven’€™t suffered an injury this season have been Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski.

That is rough, rough stuff for the Bruins, but it does allow that list of NHL defensemen to get longer. Games played as injury replacements have been the avenue to the NHL for many of Boston’€™s young defensemen, with Hamilton really the only one who was actually given a job to begin his NHL career.

Adam McQuaid filled in for an injured Mark Stuart and took his job in 2011. Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski earned their sweaters in the 2013 postseason. Kevan Miller and Zach Trotman got their feet wet a season ago with injuries to various blueliners, while Joe Morrow initially came up to replace the struggling Bartkowski this season but will remain in the lineup in part because of Boston’€™s ailing back end.

Krug thinks that’€™s a respectable way to become an NHL player. He feels jumping in to replace a hurt player leaves less room for thinking, which is a good way to avoid mistakes for a young player.

“It doesn’€™t leave you time to think about what could happen or what could go wrong, because you’€™re the only option,”€ he said. “€œThey’€™re putting you in the game and you’€™ve just got to go out and do your thing. All the guys that have gone out and done so so far have taken the right mindset.

“€œThat’€™s the only reason I’€™m here right now, is because there was an opportunity with a couple guys hurt in the playoffs, and I [made] the best of it. I think these guys are doing a good job of taking these opportunities and running with it. It’€™s fun when you earn things like that.”

McQuaid had gotten off to a very encouraging start to this season coming off an injury-plagued 2013-14 campaign that saw him dress in only 30 games. With a broken thumb putting his season on hold for 6-8 weeks, the Bruins have to go back to their group of young defensemen for bigger and tougher minutes.

That won’€™t be easy, but given the job that Miller did replacing him last season and the play they’€™ve gotten from other young blueliners, the Bruins are confident they can handle the loss.

“€œIs it a silver lining? It is in a way because we really felt we had some good depth on the back end,”€ Claude Julien said. “I think it’€™s showing now. Whoever we bring up seems to be doing a decent job. A lot of guys that are here now are going to make it difficult for us when it’€™s all said and done. There’€™s a pretty good competition going again on our back end.”

Morrow, a 2011 first-round pick, has proven to be a better NHL player than he was an AHL player. Trotman, meanwhile, was replaced by Bartkowski on Saturday and eventually sent to Providence, but now he’€™s back with the NHL club. Neither player was on Chiarelli’€™s unofficial list of nine this summer, but they can add their names to it with strong performances.

Given their injuries, the Bruins’€™ list of NHL-caliber defensemen isn’€™t anything like what it was in the offseason, but as players return to the lineup, the B’€™s could eventually find themselves at a point where they have more guys capable of handling NHL minutes than they did immediately after trading Boychuk.

“I think that number’€™s grown,”€ Krug said. “€œYou’€™re witnessing Joe come in and do a great job, and Trots is getting the experience and he’€™s doing well. I think that number’€™s getting higher and higher. Hopefully at some point, we have that many guys that the coaching staff has to make a decision who to play.”

Read More: Joe Morrow, Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug
Brad Marchand out vs. Blues, David Krejci and Kevan Miller could return 11.18.14 at 11:40 am ET
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Brad Marchand left Bruins morning skate after one line rush and was subsequently declared out for Tuesday’€™s game against the Blues.

Marchand, who missed the final 13:45 of Saturday’€™s game with an undisclosed injury, practiced Monday and was termed “probable” at the time by Julien. Asked whether Marchand’€™s ailment was a concussion or head injury, Julien said it was not.

Tuesday will mark Marchand’s first missed game of the season. In 19 games thus far, Marchand is tied with Carl Soderberg and Seth Griffith for the team lead with five goals.

David Krejci (lower-body) participated in morning skate and centered his regular linemates in Milan Lucic and Seth Griffith. Julien said that the team didn’€™t know yet whether he would be in. Julien added that if a callup was made Tuesday, it would mean Krejci would be out.

Kevan Miller, who is cleared to play, also participated in the morning skate. Julien said the B’€™s will dress seven defensemen in warmups and decide afterwards whether Miller will be in the lineup. Miller has not played since suffering a dislocated shoulder in a fight on Oct. 18.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Kevan Miller,
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