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Bartkowski's Back in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh native might make his debut against the Penguins

Monday, 01.10.2011 / 2:23 PM ET / Features
By John Bishop  - BostonBruins.com
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Bartkowski\'s Back in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH -- It's the goal of nearly every little hockey player to suit up in an NHL game.

Bartkowski
But beyond the logical dream of suiting up in the uniform of your hometown team, what if there were the possibility that you would make your National Hockey League debut in front of friends and family against your hometown team?

Boston Bruins rookie defenseman Matt Bartkowski faces that possibility tonight when the Black & Gold take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Consol Energy Center.

"I don’t think there’s better situation for me right now," said Bartkowski after morning skate. "You know first game in your hometown is awesome."

Any time a player takes his first strides on an NHL rink during their first game in "The Show" it's a heady experience, but Bartkowski, 22, was asked if the pressure were even higher on him given the personal stakes.

"I don’t know," said Bartkowski, who had 4-8-12 totals in 34 AHL games in Providence prior to his call-up on Sunday.

"I've tried not to think about it; just trying to take is as not other game .But you know this is my first NHL game so...I just turned the phone off today

"I'm not talking to anybody, really," he said.

Well, that's not exactly correct. The young blueliner withstood three waves of print, web, audio and video interviews and many questions about his time in the youth hockey programs in Pittsburgh and his thoughts about playing the team that inspired his own hockey career.

"Yeah. I’ve got a lot of people coming," admitted Bartkowski, who played his college hockey at Ohio State University.

"At least I know a lot of people have texted me so it should be a fun game."

Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien talked about Matt's game and what he expects from his newest d-man.

"Well I haven’t seen him play since he left our team when we came back from Prague, but he's another one of those young defensemen that I’m being told continues to make good progress," said Julien. "We liked him enough at camp to have to make that...tough decision between bringing him or Kampfer to Prague, and they were both I think pretty well dead even in our though process so you know we’ll see how well he’s progressed tonight.

"There’s a good chance he’ll be in the line-up, Adam McQuaid being a question mark tonight, so you know he’s one of those guys that I think has pretty good vision and moves the puck pretty well and we’ll, if he plays tonight we’ll see how he does."

If he plays, Bartkowski, who was acquired by the Bruins from Florida on March 3, 2010, plans on keeping things very simple.

"Just quick, hard and simple," said Bartkowski of the advice he had gotten from the coaching staff of the AHL Bruins of how to play his first NHL contest.

"That's about it."

Bartkowski was also asked about his accompanying the team to Prague and demotion at the end of training camp and whether he had been disappointed to be cut.

"Yeah I mean I was disappointed, but I didn’t really think too much, you know?" he said. "So I just worked hard when I got sent down and worked my way back up here again."

By all accounts, Bartkowski has done just that.

"He keeps progressing," said Julien of the reports from Providence. "Obviously, he had a real good camp for us and we liked what we saw."

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