WILMINGTON (CBS) — Matt Fraser is used to having his teammates set him up and he loves when they find him for an open, quick wrist shot.
Over the summer, the Bruins forward got used to his closest friends in Red Deer, Alberta helping him with a menial task: moving.
Fraser, who rose to prominence in New England and around the NHL in May with his overtime goal in Game 4 of the Bruins' Eastern Conference Second Round series with the Montreal Canadiens, played all four of his Stanley Cup Playoffs games on a broken foot. That meant surgery and the insertion of a metal plate and six screws after the Bruins succumbed to the Canadiens in seven games.
His summer workouts were set back a bit and he got out of something we all hate to do.
"I bought a house back home and all my buddies had to move the furniture in," Fraser explained after his first informal practice with several teammates Friday at Ristuccia Arena. "So that was a good thing. But workouts, it kind of took a while to get things going, especially for the lower body. But my upper body's strong. I've been working hard at it. And I mean now that I can work out my lower body, I've been doing it for probably a month and a bit now. The biggest thing was, and the organization knows, that I needed to take care of my foot and I had to make sure that it was 100 percent."
The hunt for Chris Kelly's replacement on the line with center Carl Soderberg and right winger Loui Eriksson in the playoffs started with Justin Florek and then rotated to Daniel Paille. Finally for Game 4 against Montreal the Bruins turned to Fraser, who had scored two goals in 14 regular season games.
After the Bruins acquired Fraser as part of the package from the Dallas Stars in the Tyler Seguin trade, all we heard about was his great shot. However we didn't see much of it until the postseason. Part of that was Fraser, now 24, getting used to his new environs and linemates.
Things should be different this season, starting at training camp in a couple weeks.
"I think it's just the more time that you spend here, you're more familiar with everything and more comfortable getting in that comfort zone to get that shot away whether if you're going down the ice with [Patrice Bergeron] or someone, you're kind of nervous, you don't want to screw it up for anyone," he said. "But just like getting familiar with everyone and getting familiar with how things run here just makes you more comfortable on the ice to play how I need to play."
This year's first-round draft pick David Pastrnak seems to be all the rage right now. Florek had his own moments of glory during last season's playoffs. Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev and Craig Cunningham have their supporters in the battle to win a bottom-six forward job, and veterans Simon Gagne and Ville Leino might be dangerous because they're desperate to continue their NHL careers. Nonetheless, Fraser technically heads into training camp as an incumbent player who would only be slightly slid down the depth chart by the return to health of Kelly.
If Fraser can get as comfortable skating with the best players in the world as he was letting his buddies do the grunt work on moving day, the Bruins might get a little more offense from their bottom six and Fraser might get to take up full-time residence in Boston.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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