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Bartkowski's return helps solidify Bruins on defense

by Matt Kalman

DETROIT -- The return of defenseman Matt Bartkowski from illness for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Tuesday pretty much made the Boston Bruins defense whole.

Defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (ACL/MCL) and Adam McQuaid (quad) are skating, but there's little sign they'll be returning from their injuries anytime soon. With Bartkowski back, coach Claude Julien had the six defensemen he rode for most of the stretch run without Seidenberg and McQuaid.

Bartkowski was off skates for a week because of a virus and had a couple practices before he skated for 18:34 in the Bruins' 3-0 win that put them ahead 2-1 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series against the Detroit Red Wings.

Game 4 is Thursday at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, NESN, FS-D).

Bartkowski took a regular shift and helped out on the penalty kill, which was 3-for-3 and is 9-for-9 in the series.

"I think we got what we needed to get from [Bartkowski on Tuesday] night," Julien said. "When you win the game, you take the win and you look at his game, and for a guy who hadn't skated for almost a week or even played, I thought he handled himself well. And there's no doubt he'll only get better here as he continues to play."

Bartkowski, Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug are Boston's left-shot defensemen. On the right side, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton and Kevan Miller have proven trustworthy alternating as Chara's partner against Detroit's top lines. That all three players are reliable makes it easier on them and the coaching staff.

Hamilton, Boychuk and Miller don't have to watch the bench constantly. Sometimes they get a shift not against the Red Wings' top offensive players.

"Sometimes it's tiring, but [Miller] goes in and takes a couple of them and take a little of it. It gives you a little break," Boychuk said. "Yeah, you don't have to work against the top line every time. You just go out and if you can get a change, you get a change."

The Bruins held an optional skate Wednesday which included forward Daniel Paille. For the first time Julien acknowledged Paille is adhering to concussion protocol.

"So I tell my trainers when they're ready to come back, let me know," Julien said.

Forward Chris Kelly (back) did not skate.

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