Penguins notebook: Boston defenseman Bartkowski gets comfortable


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BOSTON -- Matt Bartkowski, a Boston defenseman and Mt. Lebanon native, played in his 12th game of the season Monday night when the Penguins faced the Bruins at TD Garden.

At first blush, that might not seem particularly noteworthy, but Bartkowski never dressed for more than 11 NHL games in any of his previous three pro seasons.

And while his hold on a spot in the Bruins lineup isn't necessarily guaranteed -- Bartkowski could lose it when Adam McQuaid returns from an injury -- indications are that he might not be commuting between Boston and Providence, R.I., home of the Bruins' American Hockey League affiliate, very often this winter.

If at all.

"Starting in the playoffs last year and then this year, the more and more I've played, the more comfortable I've gotten," Bartkowski said after the Bruins' game-day skate.

He had five assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-3 in his first 11 games.

Although Boston has a surplus of NHL-caliber defensemen on its organizational depth chart, Bartkowski, 25, said he never was concerned that he wouldn't get an opportunity to become a fixture on the major league roster.

"Worrying about that would essentially be like wondering if I could play well enough," he said. "I was confident that I could. I just had to show it."

Clearly different

Penguins winger James Neal has switched from a tinted visor to a clear one.

He made the change before a 4-0 victory Wednesday in Washington. The Penguins beat the New York Islanders two nights later and Neal turned in a two-goal performance Saturday in Montreal, so it's no surprise that he isn't inclined to switch back.

"It's different," he said. "But we won and [I want to] keep it going."

Neal said he made the change because of the lighting at the Verizon Center -- "It's a dark building" -- but downplayed the significance of which visor is in favor at a particular time.

"In the summer, I use the clear," he said. "It doesn't really matter. At the start, I liked the dark, but it's not a big deal to switch back."

Franchise values

The Penguins are the eighth-most valuable NHL franchise, according to rankings by Forbes magazine.

The team is valued at $480 million, fifth-highest total among clubs based in the United States.

Toronto is rated the most valuable at $1.15 billion, followed by the New York Rangers ($850 million), Montreal ($775 million), Vancouver ($700 million), Chicago ($625 million), Boston ($600 million) and Philadelphia ($500 million).

Forbes said the average NHL franchise has an enterprise value of $413 million.

Malkin honored

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was named the NHL's No. 1 star for the week ending Sunday.

He had one goal and seven assist in four games.

That surge allowed Malkin to move into seventh place in the NHL scoring race with 24 points and to tie for the league lead with 22 assists.

Montreal winger Max Pacioretty was honored as the NHL's second star and Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk was No. 3.

Observant coach

Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked after his team's game-day skate what he has learned from longtime NHL coach Jacques Martin, now an assistant with the Penguins.

Julien cited Martin's prowess in coaching defensive hockey, and suggested that he has no qualms about borrowing from opposing clubs.

"I see things from certain teams that they do extremely well and I say, 'Oh, that makes a lot of sense. I wouldn't mind sliding that into our system,' " Julien said.

"I don't change our system, but I try to slide it in and I'm not different [from other coaches]. I'll steal anything I can."


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG.

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