Brian McGrattan definitively answered any questions about his approach to the fight or flight response Saturday.
His lengthy and punishing encounter with New Jersey’s Cam Janssen late in the first period made clear to his new teammates and a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena that the Nashville Predators’ newest tough guy is, in fact, prepared to fight.
With that out of the way, he looked forward to Sunday’s flight and the start of a three-game road trip that will provide an opportunity for others to get to know him under more pleasant circumstances. Nashville will play at Edmonton on Monday, at Vancouver on Thursday and at Calgary on Saturday.
“It will be a good trip to fit in and kind of meet everybody over the next week here,” McGrattan said. “I’ll be around the guys a lot on the road, we’ll have a lot of team stuff and be together with the guys.
“It will be a good chance to fit in with everybody.”
Claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Tuesday, McGrattan arrived in Middle Tennessee the next day and made his Nashville debut Thursday against Phoenix.
In a manner of speaking, though, his official introduction to his new organization and its supporters came with 3:28 to play in the opening period of Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss, just after he dumped the puck into the offensive end. That’s when Janssen skated by with a proposition and McGrattan dropped the gloves for the first time as a Predator.
“He asked me [to fight] twice already,” McGrattan said. “The first time he asked me the puck was at his feet so I took the puck instead. Then he hit me and he asked me to go.
“So I did the best I could and hopefully the fans enjoyed it.”
Officially, McGrattan logged 4:54 of ice time in the contest. That does not take into account the fight, during which the clock was stopped and time seemingly stood still.
“That was one of the longer ones I’ve coached, that’s for sure,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Those are two guys that are throwing a lot of punches. I didn’t want to be in the middle of that.”
It lasted roughly one minute, 40 seconds — an eternity for men on skates — from the time the first punch was thrown, which came after a brief period of posturing. The fisticuffs included somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 punches.
Following the game, McGrattan sat at his locker with a welt under his left eye and a small cut on the bridge of his nose still red with fresh blood — and he clearly got the better of things.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound right wing did virtually all of the punching for the first 40 seconds. He delivered a series of heavy right hands with the occasional left jab as he maintained a grip on Janssen’s jersey. Janssen held his ground, asked for more and eventually responded.
After 70 seconds McGrattan raised his right hand and asked the crowd for encouragement before he let it loose on Janssen’s head once again.
“That’s [admiration for] two guys that obviously are very good at what they do,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “That definitely gives the boys a huge lift and the crowd [too]. It’s not an easy job and [McGrattan] is one of the toughest. He’s as tough as they come.”
It was the fifth NHL fight (they also went at it once in junior hockey) between Janssen and McGrattan. According to hockeyfights.com, it earned the highest rating among voters on the website of any fight thus far this season.
“That was long,” McGrattan said. “They usually are with him. He likes the long ones. But that was a good one. The fans got into it. The fans love that kind of stuff. So, the longer the better for them.”
Not so for McGrattan, who played 182 games for three franchises before he came to the Predators. Following the fight, he played two shifts in the second period, none in the third and finished with six, barely more than half what he had in his Nashville debut two nights earlier (11 shifts).
“I know how tiring that’s got to be, going that long,” Trotz said. “So his minutes got a little bit limited but I have a pretty good trust in his game. He gets around pretty well and he’s got good poise with the puck.
“Brian has more value to us than just the fight. He can play. … As we get to know each other a little bit better, I think it’s going to be a good fit for him and for us.”
That process figures to accelerate with this week’s road trip. Already, though, there’s one thing the Predators know for certain.
“If I get asked to go and it’s the right time in the game, then I’ll go,” McGrattan said. “[Janssen] asked me twice. So I’m not going to chase a guy around and ask him to fight all game and take myself out of the game.
“If the opportunity’s there and somebody challenges me, I’m more than willing.”
And for as long as it takes.