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SOLID DEBUT FOR BARTKOWSKI

Defenceman almost nets first goal with Flames in tilt against Canucks

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers / calgaryflames.com

Some first-game jitters?

Absolutely.  

But Matt Bartkowski parked some early nervousness in his debut with the Flames to turn in a solid performance on Saturday.

"A couple jitters the first shift or so just getting back into the flow of it and new team and all that," Bartkowski said Monday from Scotiabank Saddledome before the team departed on a four-game road trip.

"But I felt good."

After spending the season with Providence of the American Hockey League, Bartkowski signed a two-year, two-way contract with Calgary on Wednesday. He played 80 games with the Vancouver Canucks last season, but went unsigned through free agency.

Fittingly enough, his debut came against his former club - a 2-1 overtime setback on Hockey Night in Canada.

It certainly added a wrinkle to Bartkowski's return to the National Hockey League.

"I'm sure there was a little more pressure," he said. "I tried to just not think about it and just focus on what I had to do being my first game and just playing at this pace and this speed for a while.

"I didn't think about it during the game too much."

Once settled, Bartkowski finished with an even rating over 18 shifts and 10:55 of action in his first NHL game since April 9.

He was a post away from netting his first goal with the Flames, too.

"It would've been (fitting), especially playing in Van because I played there last year," he said. "Just all the circumstances.

"Big game, down a goal.

"It didn't happen."

Scoring is not the merit on which he's being judged, though.

And having Bartkowski back on the blue line was a nice fit, suggested coach Glen Gulutzan.

 "I thought so. I thought so," he said. "I thought he played a strong game. He's a good skater.  

"He just has to build off that game."

It helped that Bartkowski could hit the ground running, at least sort of.

He played under Gulutzan, then an assistant, in Vancouver in 2015-16 when he had six goals and 18 points.

That added to the comfort, no doubt.

And gives Bartkowski some optimism moving forward.

"It's a pretty simple recipe here," he said. "And having Gully last year there's not a whole lot for me to learn. It's just bringing it consistently every night and playing strong defensively and moving the puck to the forwards.

"We have such good forwards that if the D are breaking out pucks than more games than not I think we're going to win."

 

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