“I don’t think there’s a better situation for me right now,” the Bruins defenseman said following Boston’s morning skate on Monday. “(Playing my) first game in my hometown is awesome.”
Bartkowski got recalled on an emergency basis from Boston’s top minor-league affiliate, the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League, on Sunday night after Boston placed defenseman Mark Stuart on injured reserve.
“I was excited,” he said of getting the call from Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney that he would be joining the team in Pittsburgh. “I called my mom, called my parents, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. Being able to play in Pittsburgh, it’s a special game.”
I don’t think there’s a better situation for me right now. (Playing my) first game in my hometown is awesome. - Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski
Bartkowski graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 2006, captaining the school’s hockey team his senior year. He led the undefeated Blue Devils to the 2006 Pennsylvania Cup state championship.
That game was played in the Penguins’ former home, Mellon Arena. Now Bartkowski gets to play another significant game in the Penguins’ brand-new arena, but it’s not his first visit to CONSOL Energy Center.
“It’s awesome so far,” he said of the building. “I got to watch a game here earlier over break, so it’s a good arena. I got to play (at Mellon), and now I get to play here. So it’s pretty cool.”
There will be plenty of his former teammates, family and friends in town to watch the Pittsburgh native potentially make his NHL debut against the team that got him interested in playing hockey.
“Being a Penguins fan, I’d have to say, when I was younger,” he said of what got him into the game. “Back in the early 1990s, when they were winning Cups.”
Now he may get a chance to play alongside one of the players he idolized growing up in veteran Mark Recchi, who began his career with the Penguins, playing in Pittsburgh from 1988-92 and again from 2005-08.
"It was weird at first," Bartkowski said of being in the same locker room as Recchi. "Now he’s just another one of the veterans and a great teammate. So it’s kind of weird, but it’s good now."
Although Monday’s matchup is no ordinary game for Bartkowski by any stretch of the imagination, he’s trying to treat it as such so as not to get overwhelmed. He got to visit with friends when he arrived in town Saturday, but he’s all business today.
“It is my first NHL game,” he said when asked if he’s feeling any extra pressure. “So I’m not really trying to think about it. I turned the phone off today, so I’m not talking to anybody, really. Just trying to focus on the task at hand.”
Before being recalled on Sunday, the 22-year-old blueliner had recorded 12 points (4G-8A) in 34 games for the P-Bruins. Prior to joining Providence this season, Bartkowski had spent two seasons at the Ohio State University, recording 38 points (11G-27A) in 80 contests.