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Motivation in High Gear

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins – For a defenseman who has only been in the pros for two years, the recently re-signed Matt Bartkowski is well traveled – and that’s not just due to the AHL and NHL schedules.

Related: Matt Bartkowski signed to one-year, two-way contract

In 2010, after playing two seasons of college hockey as an Ohio State Buckeye, Bartkowski found himself boarding a plane to Prague and Belfast on the Bruins’ preseason trip for the Compuware NHL Premiere. A year later, the defenseman was a Black Ace for the B’s during the 2011 Cup run, getting the chance to hoist Lord Stanley on Vancouver ice.

Despite not playing a game overseas, or suiting up in the playoffs, Bartkowski has gained plenty of experience being around the big club.

“After seeing that Cup run last year – as if I didn’t have enough motivation already – that definitely kicked it into high gear,” said the 24-year-old.

“The whole experience of it from start to finish, it just looked like a blast and that’s definitely something I want to be a part of.”

Bartkowski will have the chance to be in the fold of the Black & Gold for at least another season, having been recently signed to a one-year, two-year contract with the team.

He has spent the majority of the past two seasons with a regular role in Providence, but has been called upon by the B’s when injuries strike. He made Boston’s opening night roster last season, playing in three games before being assigned to the P-Bruins.

The shutdown defender is now eager for his third Training Camp in the Fall and another chance to wear the Spoked-B.

“I think I got a good shot - as long as I have a good summer and good camp and play well, I got a good shot at making the team this year.

“It’s a great bunch of guys and good city, so I’m pretty happy.”

Though the Pittsburgh, PA native is only a season and a half removed from his first three NHL appearances in 2011 – which all came against his hometown Pittsburgh Penguins, in what became a running joke between the D-man and members of the media that maybe he’d only play against the Pens in his career – Bartkowski is hoping to reach the next level.

And despite proving the Pittsburgh theory wrong, he knows that his time in Providence has been beneficial on the path to playing consistently in the NHL.

“It helps you settle in and there’s a lot of things that I still need to work on, and being able to play quite a bit down there, it really helps,” he said on his development with the P-Bruins.

“I played a lot the first full season, so that gave me an idea of how long the season is and how to gauge yourself physically. And then last season was a little short, but being able to work on everything that I need to work on, definitely helps a lot.

His 2011-12 season may have been cut short due to a knee injury in March, but Bartkowski is pushing himself hard in the offseason to ramp up for camp. He said he's been concentrating on further developing his all-around game, with focus on details in the defensive zone.

“Mainly from the faceoff dots down, just being able to make strong plays, make good decisions, make a good first pass,” he said on his areas for improvement.

But not even the most strenuous of summer workouts compares to the excitement of competition and internal challenges at Training Camp.

“It’s always fun coming back – first, being able to see everybody – and then being able to ramp it up and play at the high level again. That’s always a good time.”

As Bartkowski continues to progress in his career and raise his compete level, his comfort level has felt the effects as well.

“Compared to my first year, it’s way different – I’m totally comfortable,” he said in anticipation.

“I know what to expect, I know what they expect out of me, so I’m pretty comfortable heading into camp. Even compared to last year, just more settled in and more ready to go too, so everything’s working out.”

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