- When the Bruins held an optional pregame skate in Toronto at Air Canada Centre Saturday morning prior to facing the Leafs, Johnny Boychuk
did not take the ice.
The defenseman had left practice early in Ottawa on Friday after taking a puck off the skate, and when Coach Julien addressed the media Saturday pregame, he said that Boychuk is "doing fine" but that his status is “day-to-day” and he would not be playing tonight.
In his place, the recent call-up Matt Bartkowski will see his first NHL action of 2013 tonight against the Leafs, in his 10th career NHL game with the Black & Gold.
General Manager Peter Chiarelli had announced on Friday afternoon that Boston had recalled the defenseman on an emergency basis. Having spent the entire season in Providence, the 24-year-old has 24 points through 56 games this season with the AHL club and his 21 assists rank second among defensemen.
“He’s playing well, he’s been solid for them. He’s a big body that skates well, that can move the puck well,” Coach Julien told media, when asked for a brief scouting report on the Providence D-man.
“From, probably after the first month until now, he’s been pretty steady back there, been one of their good defenseman. He’s going to have a good opportunity here to show what he’s capable of doing at this level, we’ve seen him already a few times, so we’re confident he’s going to be fine back there.”
When Bartkowski got the call to come join Boston in Toronto, he was obviously excited for yet another chance to play at the next level, and was happy to join the B's locker room for the sixth recall of his career.
"This is a main goal of our career, so it's great to be back," Bartkowski told media in the visiting team locker room at Air Canada Centre.
"We're doing pretty well in Providence, the team's been playing well, so it's been pretty good to play down there. Hopefully I can just translate that into whatever they need me for up here."
"This is my third year, I've progressed a lot as a player, on and off the ice, just mentally everything like that. I'm very comfortable."
The defenseman helped the P-Bruins to first place in the AHL's Atlantic Division before being recalled, and noted the similarity between the systems in Providence and Boston.
"It's very helpful," said Bartkowski, on both teams having the same structure. "I know my rookie year, the system was kind of different, it's not necessarily difficult to make that transition, but being that they're pretty much exactly the same, it's just such an easy transition."
Over the past few weeks, the blueliner has seen teammates Jordan Caron and Ryan Spooner get recalled to the big club, and just tried to keep himself in the best shape possible, in case Boston needed reinforcements.
"I realized it's a shorter season, they had to fit a lot of games in. Someone's down, has a little knick here. Just try to prepare myself every day and play to the best of my ability to prepare myself to be in position to be called up."
With Adam McQuaid out 3-4 weeks (shoulder strain) and now Boychuk out day-to-day, the B's back end has taken a hit recently, but veteran blueliner Andrew Ference isn't allowing injuries to cripple the Bruins' D-corps.
"There's no time to go feel sorry for yourself, there's injuries all over the place," Ference told media.
"We've played against a lot of teams that, you look at the lineup on the board and there's just as many guys in the injured column. Obviously, it's better when everybody's in, but it is part of the game."
"You adjust and bring guys in that, over the past few years, have done a great job when they've been called upon. I don't think there's any lost confidence in the situation we're in, it's something we've had before and we've been fine with it."
This isn't the first time Bartkowski has been called upon when injuries arise on the back end, and Ference and the B's know that there won't be any hesitation with him easily stepping into the lineup.
"Over the years, we've had guys come up and fill in roles great, showed what they've got, and make the most of their personal opportunity," said Ference, on Bartkowski's chance to see NHL action.
"From a team standpoint, they've fit in great and done what they've had to. It's business as usual."
Peverley Back in Lineup
While No. 55 was the only defenseman not on the ice, forwards David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton stayed off the ice to rest. And due to the optional, the B’s did not run through normal line rushes, so tonight’s warm-ups will give the best indication of the lineup, but Coach did say that Rich Peverley would play tonight.
Peverley had been a healthy scratch for the first time as a Bruin on Thursday, as he watched the B's edge the Senators 2-1 late in the third.
"Obviously, you never want to be a healthy scratch, but it's coach's decision and I know I have to be a lot better," Peverley said following Friday's practice at Carleton University in Ottawa, before the team traveled on to Toronto. "Hopefully, from here on, it will be a lot better motivation."
Confidence in Both Goaltenders
In between the pipes, Coach Julien talked following morning skate about the confidence he has in both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, no matter who gets the call in goal.
“Well, I think, certainly, approach it in a happy way because that’s what you want with a game every second night and the amount of games we have left in a little bit of time," said Coach, on his mindset of having a strong goalie tandem.
"You need both goaltenders to be good, and both of them have been. It’s not a problem, it’s a great situation for us and I’m going to continue to take advantage of it.”