NASHVILLE — Brad Marchand’s tongue was on everyone’s, well, tongue Saturday morning, as the lickin’ he laid on Ryan Callahan was the topic du jour prior to Game 5 of Nashville-Winnipeg.
"As a team, just the guys, we were talking about it all morning, How would we react? How would you react?" said Nashville’s Ryan Johansen. "I was hoping (Ryan) Callahan would score in overtime, and skate around with his tongue out. I was hoping for something like that."
The league spoke with Marchand and Bruins GM Don Sweeney on Saturday, threatening supplementary discipline if Marchand licks another player. So far this season, Marchand kissed Toronto’s Leo Komarov in the regular season, and then licked him in their Round 1 series. Then, he licked Tampa’s Callahan Friday night.
What would the Jets’ Adam Lowry do if Marchand ever licked him?
"Probably punch him in the face," Lowry said smirking.
In all our years covering the game, we’ve asked questions about various indiscretions, from spitting, to bleeding, to biting, to beard stroking. But licking?
"To be honest, it might be the last thing that would ever come to my mind," said Kyle Turris. "I’ve never thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to lick somebody or somebody is going to lick me.’ It’s just kind of a weird thing. It crosses the line. It’s gross."
Said P.K. Subban: "At the end of the day, he plays the game hard, he’s one of the best players in the league. It doesn’t matter what people want to say about him, the guy gets it done on the ice."
There is actually a series to contend with here, one that saw a sea change in the style of play in Nashville’s 2-1 Game 4 win. The Preds got out to a 2-0 lead and ceased to attack, clogging up the neutral zone in a fashion that would have ex-coach Jacque Lemaire — a.k.a. The Mad Trapper — proud.
So what do we get Saturday night? Some more 5-4 hockey, or another 2-1 snoozer?
It likely depends on who scores first.
"They got out to that 2-0 lead and kind of sat on it. Clogged up the neutral zone, tried to slow the game down," said Lowry. "If we have the lead, you’re not going to see that defensive play by then. They’ll try and open things up."
The big scam here is the Predators saying they didn’t change a thing in their game. That they just played the same way they always do.
You don’t have the highest scoring defence in the NHL and win the Presidents Trophy by trapping your way to 2-1 results.
"We just play the same way that we played all year," assured Subban. "You’ve got to take care of your own zone, you got to take care of the neutral one especially and make it tough for skilled forward’s coming through. And they got a lot of skilled forwards. We just got to stick to the game plan and execute it. I think execution is going to be the difference for the rest of the playoffs."
Mathieu Perreault, who hasn’t seen game action since Mikko Koivu checked his shoulder out of place in the Jets’ playoff opener, is healthy and ready to inject a fresh dose of energy into Winnipeg’s lineup.
While Paul Maurice won’t confirm any lineup changes, Perreault, a 17-goal man this season, should bring a mix of physicality and present yet another scoring threat.
"I’m 100 per cent. I don’t feel it when I shoot at all. I’ve been grinding and bumping the last two days, battling against the boards, and not once where I felt a tweak or had a setback," Perreault said.
"You get so nervous [watching]. At 4-4 [in Game 3], they get that breakaway, I literally didn’t look. That’s how painful it is to watch from up there."
Maurice estimates the Jets have only had the luxury of icing a full, healthy lineup once all season prior to Saturday night.
"You’re taking guys out that are an important part of your group and still are. That’s always a challenge. But it’s exciting. We’ve waited for it," Maurice said.
"We’ll get everybody out there tonight and let ’er rip."
Although veteran Scott Hartnell delivered the physical impact Peter Laviolette was hoping for in Nashville’s Game 4 road victory, the sense is that the speedier Kevin Fiala will return to the lineup Saturday.
Hartnell, 36, quipped that keeping up with the pace of the Jets’ play felt like a Wingate test.
"Listen," coach Laviolette said. "Kevin is a good player. Scott Hartnell is a good offensive player. Kevin is a guy that has been part of the fabric of our team. Whatever lineup goes out on the ice tonight, there’s confidence that lineup will deliver."
Fiala scored the double-overtime winner here in Game 2, but for the most part the Predators’ second line, centred by Kyle Turris, has been relatively quiet this post-season.
"I’ve just got to better, you know?" Fiala said. "Just be more competitive, better strides and win more puck battles and just help the team out more."