BostonBruins.com – It had been nearly eight months since Matt Bartkowski had seen game action.
Having overcome a knee injury that left him off the ice – and out of a Providence Bruins sweater – for the end of the 2011-12 season, it’s no surprise the defenseman was ready to go come September for P-Bruins Training Camp (and with a new contract in tow).
Building Toward AHL Opening Night
Lane MacDermid & Matt Bartkowski keep it simple as they prepare for the 2012-13 season. WATCH NOW ›
With camp, which started on September 28, wrapping up in Rhode Island in advance of opening night on Friday, October 12, against the Manchester Monarchs, Bartkowski was happy to use the time to get his legs under him.
“I haven’t played since the middle of February when I got hurt so I’m just trying to get back to where I was,” he said following Providence’s preseason game last Thursday, a 3-1 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
While Bartkowski is focusing on returning to game-shape, he continues to concentrate on the key areas he worked to improve throughout the summer.
“Just really focus on fine tuning things, like the front of the net and below the dots and get my feet moving up ice,” he said. “Just a few little things that I got to work on and just get back into the flow of the game.”
Providence Head Coach Bruce Cassidy noted Bartkowski’s development as the blueliner begins his third season with the B’s AHL affiliate.
“We want him to be consistent in defending the front of the net, and we want him making good decisions going with the puck,” said Cassidy.
“The guy’s a world-class skater, so when he decides to push the tempo, he can be very effective.”
Bartkowski also sees his progression with the P-Bruins since joining the team in 2010-11 after a two-year collegiate career at Ohio State.
“When I got here, I thought I was improving and getting really close to where I need to be,” he said. “So like Butch [Bruce Cassidy] and Deano [Assistant Coach Kevin Dean] said, once I get the puck it will take care of itself, but I really still need to focus on from the dots down, in front of the net and behind the net.”
“With MacDermid, it’s more about making the plays off the wall through the neutral zone, and helping on the attack,” said Coach Cassidy.
“Because we know he’s tough, we know he’s a good positional player, he’s got energy, he finishes checks. It’s - make the plays with the puck and execute.
“At our level, we’re preaching possession. We don’t want to chase it all night. So when you can manage it and execute on a regular basis, and you be able do it up in Boston, they’ll have themselves a player.”
MacDermid was certainly tough last season, ranking second on the P-Bruins with 121 penalty minutes, and is always ready to battle, whether he has the opportunity to partake in a tussle or not.
But the left wing has been working on more than just his physical game in preparation for the 2012-13 AHL season, and talked to BostonBruins.com’s John Bishop about those skills he’s been working to improve.
“Just more of the usual things. Puck handling, my skating, proving that I make sure I play well defensively,” he said after the P-Bruins October 4 preseason game against Bridgeport.
“It’s my fourth year with the team so I’m pretty comfortable,” he added. “I try to lead by example. I’m not a huge talker, as you probably know. I just try to do things on and off the ice.”
For MacDermid, Bartkowski and the rest of the Providence squad, the three preseason games and training camp are more about “getting back into the swing of things,” as MacDermid put it, before the start of the regular season.
“We’ll have a full week of practice and we’ll get all the kinks out and systems down so we’ll be ready.”