WILMINGTON, Mass. — It took three weeks after he signed and a trip to the minors, but Brian McGrattan finally played his first games as a Bruin.
Granted it was as a Providence Bruin, but Boston's newest tough guy finally saw some game action over the weekend as he suited up for the Bruins' American Hockey League affiliate on a conditioning stint.
On Monday, McGrattan was back with the big club, rejoining the Bruins for practice at Ristuccia Arena with an extra hop in his step after finally ending the long wait between games.
"It was good," said McGrattan. "My whole career I've had long layoffs between games. It was fun. It was good to get out there. I got to play a regular shift, so it felt good.
"I was more than willing to go down there this weekend and play," added McGrattan. "The more I can do to stay ready to play the more it's going to help."
McGrattan played Friday night against Albany, then in a home-and-home series with Worcester in a pair of matinee clashes on Saturday and Sunday.
"Three games in about two and a half days, I wasn't used to that," said McGrattan. "But it was good. It was fun to get back in a game atmosphere and kind of get my game legs going because obviously a game's a lot different than practicing. I'm just glad I got the opportunity to go down and play there."
McGrattan knows his role with the big club will often entail dropping the gloves to protect his teammates, but no one on Albany or Worcester was interested in challenging the big guy. Heck, no one even wanted to come near the man who still holds the AHL record for penalty minutes in a season with 551 in 2004-05.
"There wasn't really anybody down there to go with," said McGrattan, who had four shots, but no penalty minutes, in the three games. "I'm not used to having so much room. I'd get the puck and the guys would just kind of spread, so I wasn't used to that. I'm no offensive threat."
McGrattan knows things will be different when he finally gets to play his first game in Boston. He wasn't able to see the Bruins' 4-0 win in Ottawa on Saturday night, but he was very much aware of what transpired in the closing minutes when Senators tough guy Chris Neil picked a fight with the usually non-combative Dennis Seidenberg.
"No, I heard about it though," said McGrattan, who played with Neil in Ottawa for three seasons from 2005-08. "It's typical Chris Neil. I had to protect that guy for three years when I was there. He'd do that, then I'd have to fight all his battles for him the next time we played a team after he did something stupid like that.
"So I wasn't surprised," added McGrattan. "That's the way he does it. He'll do something like that where he knows he'll get kicked out of the game and won't have to come back and fight anybody. I've been around him long enough to know he does that, and then I'm the one who usually has to fight his battles the next time we play a team. So that's typical."
The Bruins and Senators play each other five more times this season, and McGrattan could get the call to keep Neil in check. After getting in some work this weekend, McGrattan feels confident he can contribute against any team if called upon.
"I feel ready," said McGrattan. "If they need me I'm here."
The Bruins haven't had to turn to McGrattan yet, as they've stayed healthy up front with all four lines producing in a 6-2-0 start. But McGrattan knows he'll get his chance eventually.
"There's 74 games left," said McGrattan, who played just 34 games last season with the Flames. "You don't want to see it happen, but obviously there's going to be injuries down the road. I have some friends in Calgary that I still talk to and they were telling me they've had five guys go down in two weeks. Things like that can happen.
"You don't want to see it, obviously, but that's why you carry extra guys," added McGrattan. "If the coach sees you're working hard in practice there's always a chance you'll get to play. So there's a lot of possibilities and that's why I want to stay as ready as I can."
And when the Bruins next meet Ottawa on Nov. 13, Chris Neil might want to be ready as well.