BostonBruins.com - Last December, Matt Bartkowski was Providence's guy.
The blueliner played 20-25 minutes a night against the opponent's top lines with the Bruins' American Hockey League affiliate. His uptick in consistency was rubbing off on his defense corps, and coincided with the team's solid play, as they became one of the hottest teams in the league (going 7-2-0-1 to start December with a goal and five assists from Bartkowski in that span).
"Right now, Matt is definitely still a prospect," Providence Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy had said to BostonBruins.com back on December 26. "But I don’t want him to wake up one day and just be a guy that, you know, Boston can just use in a pinch. We want to convince him that, you’re going to be the 'next guy.'
"So he’s taken on that mindset…and that challenge."
WILMINGTON, MA - When the group filtered out for Captain's Practice Sunday at Ristuccia Arena, there was alternate captain Patrice Bergeron, hitting the ice with his teammates again.
The centerman has been skating for about three weeks, and working out for more than a month, but it was a welcome sight to see him take the ice with the B's. He's the last Bruin to arrive in Boston, as we've been chronicling the returns every day, so it's also an indication of just how close we are to Training Camp (which kicks off on the 11th of September).
Alas, "Gang's all here!"
When I spoke with Patrice this past Thursday, as he was in NYC taking part in the annual NHL Player Media Tour, he gave an update on his health then - that he was feeling good, basing all of his workouts on "feel" and paying attention to his pain threshold.
BostonBruins.com - There's a reason fans say "we" in reference to their beloved sports teams. They're a part of it, the journey, from the summer, through the season and late into June. And they want to be as much a part of it as possible, from attending games and events, to following the team's every move.
Now, Bruins' fans will get to go behind the scenes like never before, with the new all-access TV series "Behind the B" presented by Alex and Ani, slated to air during the 2013-14 season. The special hour-long premiere episode debuts this Monday, September 9, at 8:00 p.m. ET on NESN, and 12 more half-hour long episodes will follow (air dates to be announced). It's being narrated by Worcester, MA native Denis Leary.
BostonBruins.com - The group assembling at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, MA for Captain's Practices grows larger by the day. on Friday, defensemen Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowksi were the latest B's to join in the informal skates.
Defensive prospect Joe Morrow, acquired in the trade with Dallas in July, also hit the ice with the group for the first time in Black & Gold. He joins Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser as the trio of "prospects" who came to Boston with Loui Eriksson from the Stars.
The group of 15 forwards, nine defensemen and two goalies was by far the most on the ice at a time this week, and it allowed for the first 5-on-5 scrimmage during Captain's Practices. It was also the skate most resembling a B's practice, with hardly any stoppages and the sounds of gliding skates, crisp passes, slap shots and the outbursts of stick taps for a teammate's slick goal once again filling the rink.
With about two weeks of these practices in the books, here are a slew of observations…
BostonBruins.com - On Thursday, Gregory Campbell stood near the dugout at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, MA, donned in a No. 11 baseball jersey, there to support Milan Lucic for his annual charity softball game. Fans quickly noticed him, and when he was announced during the Bruins' introductions, the crowd roared as he ran onto the field and down the third base line high-fiving his fellow B's.
Earlier in the day, he had been back skating at Ristuccia Arena for Captain's Practice. The last time the centerman had hit the ice in Black & Gold with his teammates, he suffered his broken leg during the Eastern Conference Finals in May.
Three months after successful surgery on June 10, and Campbell was back smiling, taking strides as if he had never left the ice - and running around the baseball diamond with ease.
Actually, he's been cleared to run and skate for two and a half weeks now (since August 20), and came right to Boston once he got the good news.
In fact, the next day, he went right on the ice, having been extremely anxious for nearly three months waiting for that news. His leg didn't feel the best then, but Campbell said "it's gotten better ever since."
BostonBruins.com - Considering the laundry list of injuries we learned were plaguing Patrice Bergeron at the end of last season, it seems there can never be enough updates from the Bruins' alternate captain on his health heading into Training Camp.
The verdict? No setbacks, and still on track as camp inches closer and closer, set to begin this coming Wednesday, September 11.
Bergeron has not been able to join his teammates yet for Captain's Practices at the B's practice facility, Ristuccia Arena, in Wilmington, MA. He returned to Boston Wednesday from his native Quebec, but had to jet off to New York City for the annual NHL Player Media Tour, a two-day affair with photos shoots, interviews and publicity to aid in the League's marketing and promotion for 2013-14.
"I'm looking forward, first of all, to being back and seeing the guys in Boston," Bergeron told me via phone from New York City on Thursday.
WILMINGTON, MA - It had been roughly four months since we had seen Gregory Campbell on the ice, skating with his teammates. When Thursday's Captain's Practice rolled around, there was Campbell, heading out of the B's locker room and hitting the ice at Ristuccia Arena, all smiles, just a step in front of Jarome Iginla.
It was a welcome sight for those in attendance, and his teammates felt the same.
"Seeing him out there today, he's finally smiling, so it's nice to see him and just have him in the room being himself and being part of the team and doing everything with us," said defenseman Johnny Boychuk, also taking part in the informal skates.
"It's nice to see and just great to have him back on the ice."
Campbell has been on a recovery path this summer since suffering a broken right leg on June 5, during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Following his surgery to repair the break on June 10, Campbell was optimistic.
"I'm fully expecting to be 100% at camp," he had said, with a cast on his leg and crutches nearby. "If you look at six to eight weeks, it puts me in mid July to late July, early August [when] I'll be back on my feet."
"Soupy" is certainly back on his feet, and that optimism has translated to the ice, with just under a week left until Training Camp officially kicks off on Wednesday, September 11.
Captain's Practice Notes
Campbell was one of the latest additions to the Captain's Practices at Ristuccia Arena, in addition to Jordan Caron, who no doubt has his eye on making the big club out of camp.
Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla, Chris Kelly, Shawn Thornton, Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton also participated in the skate, along with P-Bruins and recent additions to the organization Niklas Svedberg, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, Carter Camper, Bobby Robins, Nick Johnson, Rob Flick and David Warsofsky.
Much of the talk heading into camp has been focused on the "young competition" that is expected to take place both for Boston's forward corps and the back end. (I can already sense that "healthy competition" will be the buzz word from players and media alike.)
Johnny Boychuk remembers what that experience was like. It's not too long ago, that he was trying to crack the B's roster.
"It does [take time] and when you get that chance, you have to take it, and do as well as you can," said the blueliner. "Because there's always somebody new coming up, trying to take your spot. It's always a competition and everyone pushes each other. It's healthy."
"We've got a lot of good, young players and it's going to be good competition for guys and everybody's just excited."
"There are some spots they could be fighting for, and will just make for better skates and better competition."
One of the top shutdown defenseman (should we still call him such, when he notched five more goals during the postseason than he did during 44 regular season games?), Boychuk knows that heading into camp, that competition for the lineup will only help fuel the veterans as well.
"I've played with [Andrew Ference] for the last couple years so it's going to be different playing with somebody else, besides Zee, but we've got these three young guys that are more than capable of stepping up and taking those minutes," said Boychuk.
"They're good players and it's going to be good competition for them, and it's just going to make everybody better."
BostonBruins.com - Loui Eriksson has been wearing the Black & Gold for two days now, during Captain's Practices at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, before training camp begins next Wednesday on September 11.
And for him, as it was for Jarome Iginla to newly don his new team's color scheme, it "feels really good."
On July 5, the blockbuster seven-player trade between Boston and Dallas featured Eriksson at the center of the deal. The 6-foot-2, 196-pound right winger racked up 501 NHL games in seven seasons with Dallas, notching 150 goals and 357 points, before coming to the Bruins.
Eriksson arrived in Boston on Saturday and Tuesday marked his second day on the ice with a number of his new teammates, including Brad Marchand, David Krejci Carl Soderberg, Tuukka Rask, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton, Dennis Seidenberg and fellow new Bruin, Jarome Iginla.
WILMINGTON, MA - We've reached the point during Captain's Practices, when you never know who will be next to walk out the players' locker room door at Ristuccia Arena and take to the ice.
On Tuesday, blueliners Johnny Boychuk and Torey Krug were the latest players in Black & Gold to join in the informal skates. New winger Matt Fraser, (acquired in the trade with Dallas in July) wearing No. 25 on the back of his helmet, donned the spoked-B for the first time, and goalie Niklas Svedberg joined Tuukka Rask between the pipes for the roughly hour-long session.
WILMINGTON, MA - Loui Eriksson has landed in Boston, and was donning the Black & Gold spoked-B during Captain's Practice Monday at Ristuccia Arena, when a group of 14 skaters took the ice before Boston's training camp kicks off next Wednesday, in eight days, on September 11.
We'll likely hear from the new Bruin within the next couple of weeks, on finally being in Boston after a much-anticipated arrival and how he's adjusting to his new team. And no one will be able to deny his excitement for being with the B's.
In July, when the seven-player blockbuster trade between Boston and Dallas took place, the winger waived his no-trade clause to become a Bruin.
"I talked to my family quick and it was kind of an easy decision for me to make that decision to go and play with Boston," Eriksson said back in July via conference call, following the trade.
"When I got the call it was Boston on the line, it was pretty persuasive for me to say yes to that because I know Boston is a good team and it’s a different chapter to go there and try to win games and try to go far in the playoffs and win the whole Cup. I think the match to go and play for Boston is really good - it will be fun."