The Nashville Predators’ Brian McGrattan and the New Jersey Devils’ Cam Janssen are not strangers to each other by any stretch of the imagination.
Before McGrattan joined the Predators earlier this week, his last NHL fight had been on January 25, 2010, against Janssen in Calgary while Janssen was with the Blues and McGrattan was with the Flames.
“We go back to junior days,” McGrattan said. “I don’t even know what number that is in terms of times we’ve fought. It’s usually every game.”
McGrattan and Janssen tangled at least once in the Ontario Hockey League, when McGrattan was with Oshawa Generals and Janssen was with the Windsor Spitfires. Per HockeyFights.com, they had fought each other at least four times in the NHL before Saturday night’s game. At 6’4″ and 235 pounds, McGrattan has about 20 pounds and four inches on Janssen.
At 16:32 of the first period at the Bridgestone Arena, Janssen and McGrattan danced again. It was McGrattan’s first bout as a Predator – an exceptionally long one, going well past the two minute mark.
“He asked me in the zone,” McGrattan said. “The puck was in his feet and I took it. I knew he’d be coming for me. It was a long one. Usually when I fight him they’re marathon fights, but I think that one took the cake for the longest one so far.”
“That was one of the longest ones I’ve coached, that’s for sure,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “It was two guys who were throwing a lot of punches. I didn’t want to be in the middle of it.”
“It was great,” New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said, referring to Janssen. “What a warrior to fight a guy that much bigger than him for that long. That was an epic one.”
“That’s probably one of the longest ones I’ve ever been in,” McGrattan said. “I usually don’t turn him down much.”
With as much experience fighting Janssen as McGrattan has, one might think he would enter into his fights with a fight strategy. McGrattan, however, says that he mainly fights by instinct.
“I don’t really have a strategy against anybody,” McGrattan said. “I just kind of get going. I usually don’t think about fights or anything like that. Whatever happens happens.”
“I just like going punch-for-punch,” McGrattan added. “I get the fans into it and the fans love it. That’s what I do.”
While McGrattan clearly got the better of Janssen, he was quick to point out that the animosity between the two of them does not extend off the ice.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” McGrattan said. “He’s not a big guy, but he can throw with the best of them. We’ve been fighting each other for about 12 years now.”
Later in the game, however, McGrattan tried to convince Devils forward Eric Boulton to drop the gloves. Boulton refused.
“I’ve been trying to fight him for 6 or 7 years now,” McGrattan said. “It’s usually the same thing. He has an excuse all the time.”
While McGrattan only had 4:54 of ice time, Trotz was highly complimentary of his game.
“Brian has more value to us than just the fight,” Trotz said. “He can play. I know how tiring that has got to be, going that long. His minutes got a little bit limited, but I have pretty good trust in his game. He gets around pretty well and he’s got good poise with the puck. As we get to know each other a little better, I think it’s going to be a good fit for him and us.”
Unfortunately for McGrattan and the Predators, the with Janssen fight did not have the anticipated energizing effect. The Predators were up 2-0 at the time, but never got back on the board against the Devils. Eventually, they lost 3-2 in the shootout to drop their record to 2-1-1.
“You’re not going to win every game,” McGrattan said. “I thought our team played good tonight and bounced back from a tough loss the other night. You know in a shootout things can go any way. We’ll rebound here and get ready for the week out West.”
PuckScene.com Three Stars
1. Pekka Rinne – Nashville Predators
2. Ilya Kovalchuk – New Jersey Devils
3. Colin Wilson – Nashville Predators
Official Three Stars
1. Ilya Kovalchuk – New Jersey Devils
2. Colin Wilson – Nashville Predators
3. Johan Hedberg – New Jersey Devils