BOSTON — As the only new guy in the Lightning dressing room, wing Erik Condra said he had to work out some small kinks.
Condra, 29, having spent his first five NHL seasons in Ottawa, noticed the Lightning puts away its equipment differently, sparking a few early faux pas.
"They gave me a free pass for a couple weeks," Condra said, smiling. "Now it's good to go."
Condra, who signed a three-year, $3.75 million free agent deal July 1, has fit in seamlessly, his playing style and personality making his transition easy. It didn't hurt that Condra scored his first goal of the season in Saturday's 4-1 win over the Sabres, endearing himself to teammates and taking the "weight off my shoulders" heading into today's game against the Bruins.
The Lightning likes the balance Condra brings to the lineup — he is one of just three right-shot wings on the roster — and his experience as a penalty killer. Condra, at 5 feet 11 and 183 pounds, has the skating ability to keep up with one of the league's fastest teams, and he can play every forward position.
The third line of Alex Killorn, Valtteri Filppula and Condra (call it the KFC line?) has been used as a shutdown unit, asked to defend Flyers star Claude Giroux in Thursday's opener. The line can play a greasy, gritty game while also generating scoring chances. Condra had a career-high nine goals last season.
"They're responsible players," coach Jon Cooper said. "That was one thing with Condra, he's a really responsible player and good penalty killer."
Condra grew up outside Detroit, idolizing iconic Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman. Condra's wife, Ryan, surprised him with a signed Yzerman jersey for a wedding gift, a memento that still hangs in his basement. So it was a bit surreal for him to have Yzerman, now the Lightning's general manager, pursuing him July 1. And it took the sting away from his disappointment of not getting a sufficient offer from Ottawa, where he wanted to stay.
Condra has a history with Cooper. He played for the coach in the NAHL and served as an usher in his wedding. A savvy player, Condra picked up the Lightning's system quickly. He had a tremendous training camp and preseason, saying it helped that teammates "welcomed me with open arms."
Condra, a former Notre Dame star, essentially took the roster spot vacated by veteran wing Brenden Morrow, another well-liked player who provided valuable leadership in the Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup final last season and wasn't brought back.
"Guys who have been brought in the last couple years, they fit a certain mold," captain Steven Stamkos said. "Not just their play on the ice, it's their character, their personality, and (Condra) fits. It's been a pretty easy transition. He's been a guy who's been around the league for a while. He's been a great addition."
Condra made it a point to drive to Florida from Minnesota and join the Lightning's informal skates in Brandon before camp opened. Ryan and their 1-year-old son, Callan, joined him later. He looks comfortable around his new teammates, not afraid to throw in a barb or two.
"It's been pretty smooth," Condra said. "So far, it's been great."