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Adam McQuaid knows Matt Bartkowski’s situation well 10.08.13 at 9:11 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid went from a healthy scratch to a regular for the B's (AP)

Adam McQuaid went from a healthy scratch to a regular for the B’s. (AP)

Matt Bartkowski isn’t the first to play the waiting game.

After proving himself capable of being a top-four NHL defenseman last postseason, Bartkowski has been the victim of a numbers game. With all of Boston’s blueliners healthy, it’s essentially down to Bartkowski and Torey Krug for the team’s third-pairing left defenseman. Krug is too valuable to the power play to sit, so for the first two games, Bartkowski’s worn a suit rather than a uniform.

Adam McQuaid knows exactly what that’s like.

McQuaid had played 19 games for in the 2009-10 season (Bartkowski played 11 last year) before playing nine games in the postseason (Bartkowski got in five games this past spring), but when the B’s began the 2010-11 season as the team’s seventh defenseman. To keep sane amidst the his time out of game action, the then-23-turned-24-year-old picked the brain of Johnny Boychuk, who had been through it before. As such, he hopes he can be of help to Bartkowski.

“I know what it’s like to be in that position,” McQuaid said. “When I went through it, I talked to Johnny Boychuk about it, and there’s always that kind of progression where the next guy can talk to you. If I’m lucky enough to be in a position where guys are comfortable [enough] to talk to me, and want to talk to me about different stuff, I’m happy to do so.”

As it turned out, it took an injury to Boychuk for McQuaid to get his chance. A Boychuk arm injury in late October allowed McQuaid to get into 10 games. Later in the season, McQuaid made enough of a case for himself while Mark Stuart was out with a hand injury that the B’s opted to keep McQuaid in the lineup and trade Stuart in the Rich Peverley deal.

The lesson? Don’t get down just because you’re not playing. Injuries happen and everyone gets their shot. The Bruins already have a case of it this year with Jordan Caron, who has in all likelihood turned Carl Soderberg into the team’s extra forward once Soderberg returns from his ankle injury.

“You never know what can happen,” McQuaid said. “The tough thing about it is that a lot of times it’s an injury and you don’t want to see a teammate and a friend get injured in order for yourself to get an opportunity. You just have to stay prepared. Practicing hard, and when you’re at the games, paying attention. Just being ready when you have the opportunity because you definitely want to make the most of it.”

McQuaid sat for the first six games in the 2010-11 season before Boychuk’s injury opened the door for him. Claude Julien has said that the wait won’t be too long for Bartkowski. Whether Krug, Dougie Hamilton or someone else sits, the B’s are going to get him into a game.

“I’ll be very honest — he’s not going to sit up there for a month,” Julien said Tuesday. “That’s not going to happen. We’ve got some good players that need to play. Especially early in the year, you’ve got to give those guys opportunities to play. When that’s going to happen, I’m not sure yet, but certainly don’t expect to see him in the stands for a whole month.”

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski,
Barry Pederson on D&C: Bruins ‘are going to be a good team for a long time’ 06.25.13 at 10:05 am ET
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NESN analyst Barry Pederson, in an interview on the Dennis & Callahan show, identified a number of roster decisions that now face the Bruins following their elimination in a Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks. Still, Pederson suggested that the team’s long-term outlook remains excellent.

With a number of young, still-improving talents like Tyler Seguin, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton, Pederson suggested that if Boston can re-sign restricted free agent Tuukka Rask and lock up Patrice Bergeron — who now has one year left in his contract — to an extension, the team has the core to continue to build upon its run of two Stanley Cup Finals and one championship in the last three years.

He emphasized the need for players like Tyler Seguin, Carl Soderberg and Jordan Caron to get stronger to help carry the Bruins through a 2013-14 season that starts in 13 weeks, but overall, Pederson pointed to a sunny outlook for a team that just endured a devastating defeat. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Barry Pederson, Carl Soderberg, Jordan Caron, Matt Bartkowski
Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘Surprised’ to see Andrew Ference play over Matt Bartkowski in Game 1 06.03.13 at 1:58 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley, in an interview with Mut & Merloni on Friday, talked about the Bruins’ win over the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals and previewed Monday night’s Game 2.

Brickley said that the end result of the game was what impressed him most about the Bruins on Saturday night, because they did not start the game very well. Pittsburgh outshot Boston 22-17 through the first two periods.

“The way they played the first 40 minutes was not Bruins hockey,” Brickley said. “They played real strong, they looked more like the team and their identity in the third period. I liked the way they played in the third, the neutral zone was a lot better, fewer turnovers. Once they had that 1-0 lead and were able to extend that lead they got real comfortable in that third period playing the style that they wanted to play. They are going to need a better start tonight because that could have easily been 3-1, 4-1, 5-1 after the first 40 minutes.”

One thing that surprised Brickley on Saturday night was that Andrew Ference returned to the lineup in place of Matt Bartkowski. Bartkowski, a Pittsburgh native, played more than 19 minutes in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Rangers before sitting Game 1 against the Penguins.

“Yeah, [I was] a little surprised to be honest with you,” Brickley said. “I know it was a very difficult decision. The minute you get clearance from team doctors and you’re ready to go, it is a tough decision. Bartkowski being a Pittsburgh kid, he was instrumental in advancing in that five-game series against the Rangers. He gave a different element to the Bruins back line with his speed, his ability to pinch down the wall, make key plays in the offensive zone, the quick ups. He was a good match for the Rangers because the Rangers don’t have a ton of team speed so he had more time and space.

“But Andrew Ference is a guy that shouldn’t lose his job to injury. He is a veteran guy, he plays real well in the postseason, he is a leader and he is a good match for the Pittsburgh Penguins when you talk about their high-end talent. I was a little surprised. I thought they would go with the same lineup that you saw in Game 5 against the Rangers, but it was a good decision because Ference played real well.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andrew Ference, Andy Brickley, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski on going home to Pittsburgh: ‘Everyone’s calling in their favors’ for tickets 05.29.13 at 5:45 pm ET
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Matt Bartkowski is heading home for the Eastern Conference finals. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WILMINGTON — Going home again has its drawbacks. Just ask Matt Bartkowski.

The Bruins’ 24-year-old defenseman is headed back to where it all began for him and he couldn’t be more excited. But the homecoming for the native of nearby Mt. Lebanon, Pa., does have some obligations to fill.

“The last few years it’s been close [to] playing Pittsburgh in the playoffs and now it’s finally happening,” he said after practice on Wednesday. “I’m stoked up, pumped up and ready to go, and I’m sure the rest of these guys are. Everybody’s calling in their favors, this and that and all that crap. It just pumps us up and we’re ready to go.”

The homecoming was made possible the moment the Bruins beat the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday, less than 24 hours after the Penguins eliminated the Senators, also in five games.

“You can’t believe how many times I’ve been asked that,” Bartkowski said of being asked about heading home. “It’s going to be awesome. I can’t think of any other way of it happening. Playing a role on the team now, and it’s playoff hockey. We’ve been looking at this match up for a while, especially me. It’s going to be awesome.”

When Bartkowski was growing up, his current teammate Jaromir Jagr was helping Mario Lemieux win back-to-back Cups in 1991 and ’92. The Penguins then went through a down period in the early 2000s before Sidney Crosby was drafted in 2005. Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers and Pirates, once again had the hockey bug.

“It died down for four years or so until Crosby got drafted,” Bartkowski said. “It’s the same thing with Jagr-Lemieux era. Now it’s the Crosby-Malkin era. Every time they get big players in Pittsburgh, it seems to jump-start all the little kids playing. It’s good for the area.

“With the Pirates doing [great], what do even you say about them? It’s pretty unfortunate. Every year they have a chance at the playoffs and then they kind of blow it. Once football season is over, it’s a hockey town. And especially with the talent they have now, it’s a hockey town once football season is over.”

His coach isn’t worried about Bartkowski being overwhelmed with it all.

“No, I don’t think so,” Claude Julien said. “I think it all depends how you approach it. He seems pretty excited, he’s looking forward to it. I think at the end of the day, he knows who he’s playing for. He wants to do well for his team. The better he does, the better he looks in everybody’s eyes, whether it’s his hometown that’s rooting for the other team or whether it’s us. I don’t see an issue with that; if anything, it’s a positive, it’s exciting. You know that he’s going to be ready to play.”

What’s interesting is that, as a defenseman, his idol didn’t play for the Penguins.

“Actually, it was [Scott Stevens] on the Devils,” Bartkowski recalled. “Any chance I got to watch a Devils game, I would. I remember in ’95, they played the Penguins in the playoffs.”

Reminded that it was Stevens who carved a reputation by laying out star players of other teams, like Eric Lindros in the 2000 playoffs, Bartkowski conceded, “Yeah, I don’t think you’d get away with those hits now. We talk about that sometimes.”

When Bartkowski, who was paired Wednesday with Dennis Seidenberg, gets on the ice, he won’t be worried about the fans, tickets or his hometown. The only names he’ll be concerned with are Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla and the roster of the Penguins.

“I don’t know if many adjustments,” Bartkowski said. “Just making sure you’re hard on the puck and playing as physical as you can in every situation that you can. Don’t get yourself out of position but be as physical as you can.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux
Matt Bartkowski on M&M: ‘It’s not my call’ who suits up for Bruins 05.28.13 at 2:16 pm ET
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Mat Bartkowski

Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski checked in with Mut & Merloni on Tuesday afternoon to chat about the upcoming Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins.

Bartkowski and fellow call-up Torey Krug have played well since joining the team in the postseason following injuries to veteran blueliners. With Andrew Ference and Wade Redden back skating with the team, coach Claude Julien might soon have to make a roster decision.

“I don’t really think about it too much,” Bartkowski said. “I’m just trying to keep playing and assuming that I am going to play in the games. It’s not my call once it comes down it, who plays. All I can really do is put my best foot forward and see what happens.”

Bartkowski said the fact that he started the postseason playing in the AHL rather than sitting in Boston has played to his advantage.

“I think it was key that I went back down to play in Providence,” he said. “I think if I was just sitting up here and riding the bike, I don’t think I could have played the way I have. We were playing playoff hockey in Providence. It’s not the same level or speed or anything like that, but all in all, it’s still playoff hockey and you’ve got to bring the same intensity. That made a world of difference in being able to prepare for the role I’ve assumed up here.”

A Pittsburgh native who grew up a fan of the Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr-led Penguins of the 1990s, Bartkowski knows the Bruins will have their hands full with this edition of the Pens.

“Pittsburgh, you don’t want to call them an All-Star team, but they’ve got a lot of high-end talent,” he said. “I guess they’re more of a risk-reward team [than the Rangers]. I think it will be a pretty good matchup. We’re pretty defensively sound and we’re a strong team. It will be a fun series to play in.”

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Read More: Andrew Ference, Matt Bartkowski, Sidney Crosby, Torey Krug
A hockey life: Older, wiser Jaromir Jagr continues to live his dream at 11:15 am ET
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Jaromir Jagr will try to help the Bruins knock off his original team, the Penguins, and advance to the Stanley Cup finals. (AP)

Hours after the Bruins’ 5-2 victory over the Rangers last Sunday, the TD Garden sat still and empty.

The boisterous crowd had long since departed after Boston took care of business, holding serve on home ice, supplying the team with a 2-0 series lead in its Stanley Cup playoff conference semifinal series. The players and coaches trickled steadily out of the building, the janitorial crew had finished cleaning. Hours after the final whistle, Jaromir Jagr returned, alone, to the ice.

“Hockey is who he is,” said Mark Recchi, Jagr’s former Penguins teammate. Last seen in a Bruins sweater hoisting the Stanley Cup, Recchi now is a hockey operations advisor with the Stars, the team that dealt Jagr to the Bruins. “That’s his life. He’s passionate about it, he works hard at it, and he still wants to be a great player. He does whatever it takes to stay at that level.”

In front of 17,565 empty golden seats, the 41-year-old Jagr skated. Using every inch of his 6-foot-3, 240 pound frame, the forward from Kladno pushed himself, feeling the burn in his thickly muscled thighs. Living over 3,900 miles from his family in the Czech Republic, Jagr needed to be back on the ice, back home. The man with such phenomenal balance on skates then skated some more.

“This is playoffs,” reminded Jagr. “Any player will find out. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the first, second line or third. It’s tight checking. It’s harder to score.”

Jagr began his NHL career with the Penguins but now is looking to end Pittsburgh’s season. His playoff resume includes 78 playoff goals, though none have come recently. Amidst the longest scoring drought of his career, Jagr has not scored in 21 consecutive playoff games (his last playoff goal came against the Penguins in 2012). Though he has accumulated 193 playoff points over the course of his career, Jagr has registered just four points in 12 games during the Bruins’ 2013 postseason run.

“It’s harder to score for me, and it’s harder to score for anybody else,” he said. “Unless you the best player in the world.”

Jagr would know better than most, considering, once upon a time, he was the best in the world.

Just like Jagr can’t fathom the idea of leaving the rink after a game (he is on record stating his desire for the NHL to begin playing doubleheaders), the concept of life without hockey is far removed from his mind. The offensive dervish entered the National Hockey League at the age of 18. Since then, every imaginable part of his life — and the world — has changed. His identity as a hockey player has evolved over the past 23 years, but his profession remains unchanged. Jaromir Jagr, all these years later, is still a hockey player.

“I don’t think he’ll ever change,” said Craig Patrick, general manager of the Penguins from 1989-2006. “He was built this way.”

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Read More: Craig Patrick, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, Mark Recchi
Ed Olczyk on M&M: Jaromir Jagr ‘always looking for that edge’ 05.21.13 at 6:30 pm ET
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Ed Olczyk

Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this story, Olczyk was quoted as guaranteeing a Bruins series victory, but the quote was mistakenly taken out of context.

NBC Sports hockey analyst Ed Olczyk joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday, prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Bruins and Rangers.

Olczyk, who played for six NHL clubs during his 16-year career that ended in the 1999-2000 season and coached the Penguins for a season and a half (2003-04 and part of ’04-05), has a personal connection to Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski, as he coached the Pittsburgh native when Bartkowski was a youngster.

“I just knew that he had the natural ability. It was just whether or not he would take advantage of the opportunities that were presented,” Olczyk said. “I couldn’t be happier for Bart. He’s a terrific young guy. I don’t think he’s really hit his full complement of his ability. He’s only played maybe 20 games in the NHL, whatever the number is. He’s getting a great taste of what it is to be a pro. I think he’s handled the situation very well.

“He has that great ability to skate you out of trouble. He’s poised with the puck. And I think there’s still an opportunity for him to continue to push the pace. And there’s something [to be said] for that, to have a guy back there that can be strong but also can skate you out of trouble. The game isn’t just about off the glass, get in to the neutral zone. Sometimes that’s the only play for a defenseman, sometimes that’s the best play. But for me, I think he’s got a lot of upside. I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. He’s playing obviously in one of the greats sports towns in the world, and playing for a great organization, for the Boston Bruins.

“He’s stepped in here very well, and it looks like he’s a seasoned veteran from watching him play. Is he going to make mistakes? Absolutely, those are going to happen. But when you put in [Torey] Krug, and you have [Dougie] Hamilton there, and you have the leadership of a guy like Zdeno Chara on the back end, I think it really makes those guys feel really comfortable.

“I’m not surprised, particularly with Matt Bartkowski, because I know him very well, but when you do put three young guys in there with not a lot of experience in the second round of the playoffs, more times than not you’re going to have a little bit more trouble, but the Bruins have been able to overcome that. And these guys and the organization could much better off because these guys have gotten this opportunity. … There is something [to be said] for experience, but the experience these guys are getting right now is just so valuable, not only for tomorrow or today, but for down the road.”

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Read More: Ed Olczyk, Jaromir Jagr, Matt Bartkowski, Tyler Seguin
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