Tough guy Brian McGrattan came to camp on a tryout agreement, and remains without a deal as the club prepares for its final exhibition games in Europe before opening the season in Prague next Saturday. He also remains with the team, something 32 other players who began camp can no longer say.
McGrattan, 29, is pleased with his performance thus far in camp but knows he still has a long way to go to lay claim to a spot on the regular-season roster and get the new NHL deal he covets.
"I feel really good," said McGrattan before leaving for Belfast with the club. "I worked really hard this summer. I trained really hard knowing if I came into whatever camp I came to in really good shape, I'd put myself in a good position to make whatever team I went to.
"Things have gone pretty good so far," added McGrattan. "There's still a long road to go here. I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing."
What McGrattan has done mostly this preseason is try to show that he is more than just a thug on skates. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound enforcer won't hesitate to drop the gloves to stick up for a teammate, but he knows earning a job will require proving he can also play with the gloves on without being a liability on the ice.
That quest, along with the fact that Montreal, Florida and Washington all had their primary enforcers in the press box for the games McGrattan has played so far this preseason, have kept McGrattan from engaging in a fight in a Bruins uniform yet. But McGrattan isn't concerned that his potential new club hasn't seen his strongest skill in action to this point.
"I've showed people what I can do [as a fighter] for five years," said McGrattan, who has played for Ottawa, Phoenix and Calgary the last five seasons. "I've lost maybe three or four fights in five years, so I think they know I can do that. It's the other things they're looking for, to see if they can trust me to put me out there for 5-7 minutes on a fourth-line shift. Hopefully I was able to show the team that I can do that. Fortunately, they've seen some things that I can do, and maybe that's the reason I'm still around."
Perhaps, but Bruins coach Claude Julien still knows that if he keeps McGrattan with the team this season, his primary role will still be to serve as an effective deterrent to anyone considering taking liberties with Boston's skill players.
"He's a very physical player," said Julien. "He's a very intimidating player. Obviously he's one of those enforcers that likes doing the job and sticks up for his teammates. … His role is pretty simple. We're not looking for him to move up on our top lines, and he's not looking to move up on our top lines. He wants to be part of this team and wants to help it in the way that he's helped every other team [he's played for] so far."
While McGrattan still has work to do to nail down a job and a contract, he can at least enjoy a working holiday with a visit to a place with some special significance to him as the club spends several days in Belfast.
"Actually I do have some Irish roots, obviously, not Northern Ireland though," said McGrattan. "We have a big family history tree back home and I know we're from somewhere on the outskirts of Dublin. But hopefully the name will make me a hit over there."
McGrattan is also looking forward to the second leg of the Bruins' European excursion, when they head to Prague on Sunday.
"I've been pretty much all over Europe, but I've never been to Ireland or Northern Ireland, so I'm looking forward to it," said McGrattan. "I've never been to the Czech Republic either, so it's two places I want to go. Prague was actually on my list of places I really wanted to go to, so fortunately I get to go."
He'll be even more excited about coming back to Boston if he has a freshly signed NHL contract packed in his luggage for the return trip.
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