BOSTON – The Bruins needed some insurance on defense, so it was no shock to see them call up a little help from Providence on Monday.
The surprise came when it was not Steven Kampfer returning to Boston, where he has spent the bulk of this season. Instead, Andrew Bodnarchuk gets his first chance to play with the big club this year, with the fourth-year pro recalled for the first time since the end of the 2009-10 season.
"It’s very exciting,” Bodnarchuk said after practicing with Boston on Monday at the Garden. "It’s been a long time since the last time I got up here. It wasn't the greatest year for me last year. I put in a lot of hard work. I'm glad to be back here, but still have a long ways to go."
Bodnarchuk, 23, went scoreless with two penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating in five games with Boston after being recalled in April, 2010. He then spent all of last season in Providence, with 1-15-16 totals and 91 PIMs in 75 games.
"It was frustrating," Bodnarchuk said. "Boston has a lot of good D prospects and some guys were playing really well last year. Steven Kampfer was playing great, [Matt] Bartkowski was playing great. So I consider them good friends, so I was happy for them. But at the same time you know where you want to be. It was something where, instead of getting frustrated, you just put the nose to the grindstone and know what your immediate goal is."
Bodnarchuk has 4-7-11 totals already through 47 games in Providence this year. More importantly, his play in his own zone has improved. He's even on a Providence team that’s been outscored by 22 goals.
"This year I'm really, really happy with how the year is going," Bodnarchuk said. "As a fourth-year pro, I'm still a young guy, but I have almost four years under my belt. I think the big thing for me is the consistency. Personally, I think game in and game out, I haven’t had a bad game, and I think that’s a big thing for me. I came out of juniors as an offensive guy and I’ve sort of bought into the role of a defensive shutdown, PK guy, and I think the consistency of my game this year is what's really helped me come on and sort of turn some heads."
Bruins coach Claude Julien has certainly been impressed by the reports he has gotten on Bodnarchuk and what he's seen of the 5-foot-11, 185-pound blueliner firsthand.
"We needed a defenseman back up and I think Bodnarchuk's done a pretty good job with us the few times he's been up," Julien said. "He’s been a pretty stable, safe type of defenseman moving the puck. His mobility is very good. So he was the guy our group thought should come to us and make that road trip with us."
Julien was also quick to stress that bypassing Kampfer for this promotion wasn't a punishment, but rather a reflection on the need for Kampfer to get into more game action in Providence after being a healthy scratch for all but five games since the middle of November.
"We sent Kampfer down so that he could play," Julien said. "It's been a long year for him. We've been, knock on wood, fortunate enough not to have any real serious injuries back there, but when you sit around that long, you lose a lot of your game. We've got to get him back there. We've got to get him playing, just like we did with Jordan Caron. He's got to play, and he's got to play a little bit more than just one game and come back. We've tried different ways to help him with his game."
Bodnarchuk credited new Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy and assistant Kevin Dean for helping get him ready for this chance, which he feels better prepared to take advantage of this time around.
"Compared to the first time I was called up, I definitely don't have the same nerves," Bodnarchuk said. "I feel confident about where my game is at, so I'm looking forward to it."
Bodnarchuk, a fifth-round pick in 2006, doesn’t know how long he'll remain in Boston, but he'll make the most of the time he does have.
"They said I’m going on the trip for sure, so I'll take that," Bodnarchuk said of the Bruins’ six-game road trip that opens Wednesday in Montreal. "Every day is a tryout I guess. It's a new day. No matter how long you’re up here you never get too comfortable, so I'm coming up with that mentality."