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For Matt Fraser, Experience of Being in Stanley Cup Playoff Atmosphere is Beyond Words

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

MONTREAL - There's a chance that Matt Fraser could make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on Thursday night at the Bell Centre, as the Bruins look to even the series in Game 4.

For the 23-year-old winger, called up from the Providence Bruins, he's just appreciating that chance.

"I don’t know if words can really explain it. I think as a kid you play for the Stanley Cup a thousand times on the street and at the outdoor rink and stuff, but not in this environment," said Fraser, after taking part in morning skate with the Bruins at the Bell Centre.

"It's exciting obviously, for sure. And I’m not trying to downplay that at all, but at the same time, once you get out there, you've got to find your groove and just play your game."

Fraser got 'the call' from Assistant Manager Don Sweeney Wednesday afternoon during lunch, packed his bags, and caught a flight to Montreal.

His P-Bruins teammates were set to practice this morning and catch a bus to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to start their second round Calder Cup Playoffs series against the Penguins on Friday night. Fraser helped them get there, with three goals and five points, as Providence defeated Springfield three games to two in Round 1.

"I don’t think anyone probably gave us a shot in the first round except for the guys in the room and it’s amazing how far confidence can go with a team," said Fraser, of his Providence mates. "We all came together as a group and I think that’s important at this time of year."

It's important for those in the Spoked-B as well, as they look to avoid a 3-1 series deficit heading home to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday.

"You always keep an eye on what’s going on," said Fraser. "And just being a hockey fan, you’re watching the Bruins."

"It’s nice to enjoy it as a fan, too."

Fraser's no longer a fan or an outside onlooker. He's been inserted into the group.

Coming in on Wednesday night game him a chance to have dinner with the Bruins and hang out with Reilly Smith. The pair of former Texas Stars teammates played their first pro playoff games together last season in 2012-13, before moving a few states Northeast over the summer after the trade from Dallas.

Smith made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut on April 18. Fraser's could be coming now, too.

Fraser spent a month with Boston from December to early January, after the big club was without the services of Chris Kelly, Loui Eriksson, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. Through 14 games, he notched two goals, mostly playing on a line with Carl Soderberg and Ryan Spooner. That was before Soderberg made the move to center.

"Had a long look at him, and he’s certainly a guy who can score," said Julien. "You have to see what he’s done in Providence and he’s been good enough, and he's done well enough to have him back here."

In addition to the three goals and five points Fraser put up in the five playoff games, he finished the regular season in Providence with 20 goals through 44 games. He has 90 total goals in his three-season AHL career.

His biggest adjustment to the NHL level has been creating time and space for his high-caliber release.

"This is where you want to be, and different players take different time in the American League, and you take it as a blessing in disguise, you just work on your game and do what you can to get back here," said Fraser.

The winger last played at the Bell Centre on September 16, in the Bruins' first preseason game of 2013-14.

While he didn't score that night (Boston won 6-3), I remember seeing him fire off his quick, NHL-caliber shot from the left circle; he just needs to work to find the space to use it.

"To be a part of it, to be here, is exciting and just to be around this atmosphere is pretty exciting," said Fraser.

"I haven't been told I'm in the lineup. Just let the coaches decide. It's obviously an exciting time for everyone. For myself, I've just got to play my game and get pucks in and make sure not to be liable on the ice."

Julien echoed that remark Thursday morning, saying that his roster would be a game-time decision for Game 4.

All of the lines were switched up during the team's pregame skate, and Soderberg was not on the ice, though Julien said he would be available for the game. As such, Fraser took line rushes with Shawn Thornton, and Jordan Caron at center.

That likely won't be the case on Thursday night. If Soderberg is in, look for the possibility of Fraser on his left wing, with Loui Eriksson on the right.

The move would allow Julien to place Daniel Paille back on the "Merlot Line" with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. With Paille playing up alongside Soderberg and Eriksson for Games 2 and 3, the Merlot lost its best weapon - his speed.

Fraser has familiarity with Soderberg from his time with Boston in December/January, and he came over with Eriksson in the Dallas trade (Eriksson assisted on his first NHL goal last season with the Stars).

If Fraser is in, he'll be taking in every second of the atmosphere, but not letting it get the best of him.

"Once you get out there, it’s just another rink, and you just kind of take it in stride and just do your thing and prepare yourself as much as you can," he said.

And if it does start to get the best of him?

"Take some deep breaths?" he suggested. "I’m not too sure. I guess I’ll figure that out at game time."

"But this isn’t the first time someone’s come up, and [Torey] Krug did it last year, [Matt] Bartkowski did it last year, and look at them now. They’re impact players in this League and you try not to think of anything like that, but you know, you've got to play your game."

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