|Bruins can see different looks, weigh options in final regular-season games||04.04.14 at 1:39 am ET|
The Bruins haven’t won either of their last two games and it doesn’t matter. What a hilarious stretch run.
They care, of course, but the team has reached a point in its schedule that most other teams don’t get to have: the time for not only rest, but mixing and matching in preparation for anything the B’s might encounter when the injuries inevitably come in the postseason.
The most obvious case of this has been Loui Eriksson. The last two games have seen Eriksson used on both David Krejci‘s line (in place of a resting – er, lower-body injury suffering – Jarome Iginla Wednesday) and Patrice Bergeron‘s line (Claude Julien flipped Eriksson and Reilly Smith starting in the second period Thursday).
Giving Eriksson some time on both of the top two lines is a wise move for the B’s late in the season. Should a top-six winger suffer an injury in the postseason, Eriksson would be the most likely option to move up in the lineup, so getting him some level of comfort with those players provides a good insurance policy. When he gets back in the lineup, the Bruins would be wise to use Carl Soderberg at center on one of the top two lines with that line’s center resting.
Rich Peverley used to serve in that role for the B’s, as he got used to playing with pretty much every other forward despite usually serving as a winger on the third line when everyone was healthy. The most notable case of this came in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, when Peverley played on the right wing of Krejci’s line after Nathan Horton suffered a series-ending concussion.
Of course, Eriksson already has experience playing with Brad Marchand and Bergeron from earlier in the season, but he hadn’t played on that line since Dec. 7, as Reilly Smith seized the second-line right wing job while Eriksson was recovering from his second concussion of the season. Eriksson had not played with the Krejci line this season, as the only other game prior to Wednesday that did not feature the Milan Lucic – Krejci – Iginla trio was when Soderberg and Daniel Paille filled in for a sick Lucic in Anaheim.
Eriksson playing on the Bergeron line Wednesday could also be a case of Julien weighing options given that Smith has just one goal in his last 25 games. However, Julien said earlier this week that he’s reluctant to change his lines prior to the postseason.
“Right now, there’s no doubt that you could always move guys around, but when you look at our third line, it’s been so productive,” Julien said. “You look at all our lines. Even if [Smith]’s not producing, Bergy’s been producing really well, so our lines are producing right now.”
Meanwhile, the different looks on the back end have continued. Julien has yet to make clear his intentions for his six postseason defensemen, though the assumption is that the biggest spot up for grabs is the second-pairing left side job currently held down by Matt Bartkowski. He and Andrej Meszaros are both battling for that job, and the last two games have seen one of them play on the second pairing with Johnny Boychuk while the other was scratched.
Neither one has dazzled thus far this week. Meszaros, who scored Sunday against the Flyers, was a minus-2 Wednesday against the Red Wings, and was part of an odd Red Wings goal that came after the puck was caught in his pants. Bartkowski was also the victim of some bad luck, as the puck was lost in his skates on a first period play before Paul Ranger got the puck and sent it past Chad Johnson.
Though Bartkowski has over 500 games less of NHL experience than Meszaros, he is more experienced in the Bruins system and has already served as a top-4 defenseman for the B’s in the playoffs, which he did in the second round last season against the Rangers.
Julien has five games left to see different looks and weigh his options.
|Regardless of what trades bring, Bruins should hold on to Matt Bartkowski||03.04.14 at 12:44 pm ET|
The Bruins nearly traded Matt Bartkowski a season ago, and it’s a good thing they didn’t. This season, they shouldn’t come that close.
Boston’s biggest need at the trade deadline is obvious: a left-shot defenseman who could play top-4 minutes. While such a player would be valuable if the B’s want to lessen Zdeno Chara‘s workload in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs, the biggest reason why would be to have a more experienced and dependable option than Bartkowski. That doesn’t mean the B’s should be in a hurry to move Bartkowski for whoever they may acquire.
Right now, Bartkowski is in line to be Boston’s second-pairing left shot defenseman behind Chara. It’s a role that was previously occupied by Andrew Ference in the postseason and one that Dennis Seidenberg may have assumed had he not been lost for the season with a torn ACL.
If Bartkowski ends up playing that role, it won’t be anything new, as he’s been a top-4 guy since Seidenberg went down and he served in the role last postseason against the Rangers. Among the Bruins currently playing, Bartkowski is third on the team behind Chara and Johnny Boychuk with 19:20 of ice time per night, and he has played 22 minutes or more in four of the team’s last six games.
“He’s logging some pretty big minutes now and he continues to get better,” Claude Julien said Tuesday. “I like his poise with the puck, he’s been carrying a lot of pucks out of our own end which has facilitated our breakouts. You know, he’s defending better all the time, he’s getting that confidence as far as being able to battle I the corner and that’s just the young player getting more ice and more experience and feeling more comfortable with the whole situation.”
Even if the Bruins get someone to upgrade his spot, the Bruins would be wise to hold on to Bartkowski. They have a group of young defensemen (David Warsofsky would be a good trade candidate given that Torey Krug serves in the role that Warsofsky figures to play at the NHL level) and could move one of them while keeping Bartkowski.
After all, if it is depth that Peter Chiarelli seeks, a player like Bartkowksi who has proven himself capable of handling the big stage — his only NHL goal remains a rather big one in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last season — is worth keeping around.
“When you sit here today you understand how important it was for [Bartkowski and Krug] to play in that series in New York,” Julien said. “They handled the pressure, they handled the playoff pressure that comes with it very well. I thought they did a great job, they were poised. Torey played a big role in that series, scoring some big goals and Bart did the same thing. We had some young Ds that really excelled in that series and today you feel more comfortable going in to the playoffs with those guys because they’ve been through it.”
|Matt Bartkowski on M&M: ‘Trying not to change too much’ with increased ice time||02.07.14 at 1:39 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss being a young defenseman, the Olympics and other hockey-related news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
With Zdeno Chara out of the B’s lineup due to the Olympics, Bartkowski and the rest of the team’s younger defenseman are getting more ice time.
“We’re just trying to focus on playing our games,” Bartkowski said. “We’re not trying to change too much of what we do. We try and do too much then it ends up hurting the team or being detrimental, so as long as we play our games, we’re just getting some more minutes.”
Bartkowski, who played in 20 regular-season games and skated to a minus-3 in the previous three seasons, has registered 10 points in 41 games this season.
“I think it’s more just your comfort level and your confidence level,” Bartkowski said. “The more and more you play, and the more you understand that you, yourself, you should be there and you’re good enough, and you should be there for a reason — once you understand that, I think your instincts just kind of take over and you just play the game like you know you can.”
|Kevan Miller won’t get complacent with new contract||01.23.14 at 1:36 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins showed during Kevan Miller‘s first call-up that they had faith in him when they played him in the final minute of a one-goal game against the Penguins.
They showed it again this week when they gave him a two-year, one-way contract extension worth $1.6 million.
“I mean, it’s obviously a good feeling,” Miller said Thursday of the deal he signed Tuesday. “You never want to get too comfortable; you always want to kind of be on your toes, but it’s a confidence-booster.”
Miller, 26, has played 16 games for the Bruins this season. The Los Angeles native and undrafted University of Vermont product has a goal and an assist for two points, an even rating and an average of 16:53 played per game. He’s been needed given the injuries the Bruins have had on their blue line to Adam McQuaid, Dougie Hamilton and Johnny Boychuk, and he’s used the time to show he’s capable of being an NHL player.
“He’s earned it,” Claude Julien said. “It’s pretty obvious he’s come in here and played some pretty solid hockey and he’s been rewarded for it. There’s no doubt, for a player, it certainly gives you that confidence and that security that you’re always looking for. But he’s still on a two-way this year, so he’s got to be careful.”
Miller was set to be a restricted free agent at season’s end. Last season, the Bruins re-upped then free agent-to-be Matt Bartkowski with a one-year deal, and though they tried to trade him afterward, Bartkowski said that it’s helpful for a player to know what’s ahead of them early in their NHL career.
“It’s pretty comforting in a sense that you kind of know where you’re going to be the next year,” Bartkowski said. “My situation was a little different, but it certainly gives you confidence, which brings a comfort level, I guess.”
The fact that Miller has two seasons ahead of him for low dollars would seemingly make him a more valuable commodity should any teams be interested in his services when talking trade with the Bruins. Bartkowski, who frequently pokes fun at teammates, said he hasn’t teased Miller with the idea that the team could try to trade Miller like they did with him.
Considering they’ve been defensive partners at both the AHL and NHL level for years now, Bartkowski certainly wouldn’t want that to happen, either.
“No, I don’t think they’re doing that,” Bartkowski said with a laugh. “I actually hadn’t even thought of that, so maybe I’ll bring that up next.”
|Matt Bartkowski: ‘Hopefully I play well enough so they can’t take me out’||11.21.13 at 12:40 pm ET|
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).
|Adam McQuaid out for road trip||11.15.13 at 8:17 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters Friday that defenseman Adam McQuaid did not travel with the team for its three-game road trip, meaning that in addition to missing Friday’s game against the Senators, McQuaid will be out Monday and Tuesday against the Hurricanes and Rangers, respectively.
McQuaid suffered a lower-body injury in his second shift of the Bruins’ win over the Maple Leafs last Saturday. He left after grabbing his groin area and did not return. Julien did say Thursday that McQuaid was working out and riding the stationary bike, and McQuaid has been spotted at various points over the last week walking without a limp.
With McQuaid out, Matt Bartkowski will remain in the Bruins’ lineup. Bartkowski had a pair of assists in the first period Friday against the Senators, making it his first career multi-point game in the NHL.
For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Adam McQuaid misses Wednesday’s practice, still day-to-day||11.13.13 at 10:39 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Defenseman Adam McQuaid was the only player missing from Wednesday’s Bruins practice at Ristuccia Arena, suggesting he’s likely to remain out with a lower-body injury.
McQuaid left after his second shift of Saturday’s win over the Maple Leafs and did not play Monday against the Lightning. He grabbed his groin area at the end of his last shift Saturday, with Claude Julien saying McQuaid’s injury is to “where he grabbed.” The coach added that he wasn’t sure if McQuaid’s injury was a “day-to-day” situation or a “week-plus.” He gave something of an update following Wednesday’s practice.
“Still day-to-day,” Julien said. “He’s not skating now because he’s not capable of it. We keep hoping that he keeps improving, and we’ll see where he stands by then.”
Matt Bartkowski played Monday in McQuaid’s place and is expected to be in again Thursday against the Blue Jackets. Julien said the team has “no idea” whether McQuaid will travel to Ottawa for Friday’s game.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
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