UNIONDALE, NY - The Bruins are set to face the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night, looking to improve to 9-4-0 on the season against an Isles team that comes in at 5-5-3.
When the puck drops, the B's will be without Johnny Boychuk on defense.
"Last minute decision on him not bringing him. He was better suited to stay back home and get some treatment there," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien told reporters following the team's pregame skate.
Boychuk is still day-to-day after crashing into the boards early in the second period against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday and could play on Tuesday.
In the meantime, though, and against the Islanders, Matt Bartkowski will get into the lineup, having been a healthy scratch for the past eight games.
"He’s worked hard. He’s a guy – he’s been patient – and I think we all know that probably on any other team he’d be playing on a regular basis and then could basically be a top four," said Julien.
"So we’re deep I think on the back end and we also have some young guys so he’s been an in-and-out guy. But his work ethic has been extremely good and to me, I’m not worried about him. He might have a little bit of rust but he’s certainly not going to be a bad player for us tonight."
"You hope he gets a good game and builds on that confidence and we’re going to need all those guys along the way. So he’s been really good and patient in a way but hard working through the tough times."
Bartkowski knows, of course, that's it's an unfortunate situation that Boychuk had to be injured for him to get into game action, but the inevitable injury would have come at some point this season.
"Yeah of course, I’ve been waiting for I don’t know how many games now; seven or eight, itching to get back in so unfortunately it was on an injury, but sometimes those things happen and I’m ready to go," said Bartkowski.
He's been in this situation before, whether during the postseason, as he was called upon when injuries struck the back end, or at certain points throughout this four seasons with the Black & Gold.
"Just working hard in practice and skating after with the coaches and biking on game days so just trying to keep my conditioning up," he added, on staying ready.
It hasn't been easy, though, to not get into game action as consistently as he'd like this season.
"A little adversity like I’m going through maybe; I don’t see any reason to change my personality or be a downer, it’s just going to be detrimental to the room so I don’t really change the way I am just because I’m not playing."
"Some guys get the luxury of maybe not going through that as much as he has but at the same time I think we see a lot of potential," said Julien, on the process to Bartkowski becoming a full-timer in the NHL.
"We like him a lot and I think he knows that, I think he senses that. And it’s just a matter of time here like anything else when a player is deemed really good and should be in the lineup, you make room for him. He’s young and we know that he still has some things to learn; he’s got the opportunity to do that while waiting to play."
"So where he improves on his game when he gets back in the lineup, you hope that that stuff has helped him along the way."
The keys to being sharp, after sitting for a few weeks?
"Just going to stay simple, move my feet, and try to play physical. That’s all I’m thinking."
Chad Johnson to Get Second Start
With Chad Johnson off the ice first at morning skate, he's expected to get his second start as a Bruin tonight. He got the W in the 5-2 win over Buffalo on October 23, making 14 saves in the process.
"Just use the one game there to sort of build off; the flow of the game and just the routine of getting ready in a start," said Johnson on his approach.
And like Bartkowski, he's going to rely on one mindset.
"For myself, it’s just keep it simple."