Matt Bartkowski was like a lot of other tykes in Western Pennsylvania in the early 1990s. The Penguins were winning Stanley Cups, and he wanted to play hockey just like the stars of those teams. Guys like Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr and Mark Recchi.
Bartkowski, of Mt. Lebanon, not only stuck with hockey, but also on Monday night made his NHL debut at Consol Energy Center. He's a defenseman with Boston -- where Recchi, 42, now plays.
How weird is that?
"A little bit. It was at first," Bartkowski, 22, said after the Bruins' morning skate. "He's just another guy on the team now."
The idea of playing against his hometown Penguins didn't phase him, either.
"I was a Penguins fan when I was younger," Bartkowski said. "Not anymore."
Bartkowski played for Mt. Lebanon High School and the Pittsburgh Hornets. He was selected in the seventh round of the NHL draft by Florida in 2008 after spending two seasons in the United States Hockey League.
He then played two seasons at Ohio State.
His career got a boost in March when Florida traded him to Boston.
He traveled with the Bruins when they started the season overseas, but didn't play and was one of the final roster cuts.
When defenseman Adam McQuaid got an undisclosed injury Saturday against Montreal, Boston called up Bartkowski from the American Hockey League on an emergency basis.
"I took a flight here [Sunday]. Got some dinner. Saw a couple friends. Went to bed. That's about it. Just like any other game," Bartkowski said matter-of-factly.
The 6-foot-1, 196-pounder had four goals, 12 points in his first 34 professional games, with Providence of the AHL, before he was recalled.
"I haven't seen him play since he left our team after coming back from Prague, but [he's] another one of those young defensemen that I've been told continues to make great progress," Boston coach Claude Julien said before the game against the Penguins.
Bartkowski got enough text messages that he expected a heavy contingent of friends to be at the game, but he had a plan for keeping his game day manageable.
"I'm turning my phone off so I don't have to talk to anybody," he said.
For his first NHL game, Bartkowski didn't get to play against Penguins All-Star Sidney Crosby, who has a concussion. But Bartkowski didn't expect that to put a damper on the night.
"Not really," he said. "He's their best player, so I'm not too disappointed to see him out."
Forwards Evgeni Malkin and Chris Conner and defenseman Brooks Orpik, who missed Sunday's practice because of illness, were back at the Penguins' morning skate and in the lineup against Boston.
However, winger Arron Asham was sick, so after the morning skate the Penguins recalled forward Dustin Jeffrey from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Jeffrey leads the Baby Penguins with 37 points in 35 games. He had a goal and an assist in three games in a promotion earlier this season.
"Dustin certainly acquitted himself well the last time he got called up," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
"Guys got healthy, and he went back down. It's another opportunity for him to show what he can do."
Meanwhile, the Penguins will have to monitor the bug making rounds through the locker room.
"It appears they all ate from the same plate," Bylsma said.
To make room for Jeffrey, the Penguins placed winger Eric Godard (facial injuries) on injured reserve. ... The Penguins' only healthy scratch was defensemen Ben Lovejoy.