If it is now a competition between defensemen to determine the lineup each night — and coach Claude Julien has said it is — then Matt Bartkowski made a strong statement Thursday night with newly acquired defenseman Andrej Meszaros watching from the press box.
Before Thursday’s 3-0 victory over the Capitals, Julien said the trade that brought Meszaros (and the waiver claim that brought Corey Potter) would not only give the Bruins depth on the blue line, it would give them something equally important.
“It creates that competition back there, again, that it’s going to go on merit. You’re going to play the guys that are playing the best, and that’s not a bad thing for a hockey club.”
Perhaps that helped spark the play of Bartkowski, who played well in his 21:23 of ice time, second on the team to Johnny Boychuk’s 21:52.
“He was really good tonight, if you ask me,” Julien said. “But I think that goes back to what I said this morning, having those guys come in, we’ve got eight D’s now. Now it becomes a competition from within our dressing room, and the six best will be in the lineup. Right now that’s what you’ve got.
“I think it’s a healthy thing to have on a hockey club. That’s what we’ve created right now. But when you talk about his game tonight, I thought he was really good. He was physical, he was strong, he was moving the puck well, and he skated well. That kind of play will certainly keep him in the lineup.”
Bartkowski added an assist on Gregory Campbell’s goal, making the feed to Patrice Bergeron that resulted in the fourth-line center’s fourth goal in four games.
For now, Julien said that the defensemen’s roles are undetermined. He’s not sure how long it will take for Meszaros to get acclimated to the Bruins’ system.
“We need to see him practice a little bit and skate with us and we’ll see,” Julien said. “At one point you’re going to see him in our lineup, and a lot of it will depend on players’ play. All of them.”
Meszaros said he knows that, like in Philadelphia where he was sometimes a healthy scratch, “it’s always tough to crack the lineup.” That might be the case in Boston, as well.
“It’s up to the coaches where they’re going to use me and how they’re going to use me,” Meszaros said. “I’m just here to help and play good and hopefully go all the way.”
Loui Eriksson said the heel injury that kept him out of Tuesday’s win over the Panthers was sustained during the Olympics. It was the 21st game he has missed this season.
“I got a cut in Russia, when I actually went into the cold tub,” Eriksson said. “I got a cut on my heel. So it started to get infected here the last couple of days. I’m on antibiotics right now, so I think it will be healing pretty good.”
Eriksson returned to the ice for morning skate Thursday, and was back in the lineup against the Capitals. He said the one-game rest helped, and the heel felt good. He scored in the second period to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
The injury was most problematic Sunday when Eriksson played against the Rangers.
“Skating there was kind of painful, but it went away after 10 minutes, after you’d been skating around,” he said. “But like I said, it’s feeling much better now.”
Oh, what a relief
There was some nervousness around the dressing room in the days leading up to the trading deadline. Jordan Caron, for one, was feeling anxious about his future with the team. That was all gone Thursday. “There is definitely a different attitude today,” Julien said. “As you can see, guys are pretty happy. [Wednesday] nobody wanted to see me; every time they saw me walking around the room, they’d put their heads down, hoping I wouldn’t point the finger at them. But today, for some reason, they seem happy to see me, so that’s the kind of impact it has on players on trade deadline day. Especially when guys are happy, they don’t want to leave.” . . . Tuukka Rask played in his 46th game of the season, which is a career high . . . Although there was one penalty called, there were no penalties served for either side. The Bruins scored their first goal on a delayed penalty, so the penalty boxes remained empty the entire game . . . Meszaros and new Capitals goaltender Jaroslav Halak, teammates for the Slovakian Olympic team, ended up on the same flight from Philadelphia to Boston Wednesday. “I bumped into him and we were sitting next to each other on the plane,” Halak said. “I think he’s a really good defenseman. He can move the puck. He can join the rush. So I think he’s going to be a big asset for them down the stretch.” . . . Potter did not arrive in time to take part in morning skate.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.