Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas returned from his six-game suspension on Tuesday and made his regular season debut during the team’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Sabres. Given his track record and growing reputation, particularly at the NHL office, one has to wonder how long it will be until his next unpaid vacation.
Gudas received his suspension for a hit on the Bruins’ Austin Czarnik in the final preseason game. The bruising defenseman drilled the rookie in the head with his shoulder well after Czarnik had cleared the puck.
It was the second suspension for Gudas, who missed three games last year for a dangerous hit. He surprisingly avoided a suspension earlier this preseason when he was ejected from the game following a controversial hit against the Rangers.
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Due to his penchant for straddling that fine line between legal and illegal checks, the league’s Department of Player Safety, ironically led by former Flyer Chris Pronger, no doubt has Gudas on its radar – and Gudas knows it.
“They’ve been looking at me since the day I got here,” he told reporters earlier in the week. “(The league) made up their minds. I have to make sure I don’t give them an opportunity to call again.”
The Flyers wouldn’t mind if the NHL removes him from their speed dial list, especially because Gudas plays such a key role for them.
Signed in the offseason to a four-year, $13.4 million contract, the 6-foot, 200 pound 26-year-old is the team’s biggest defenseman and brings a physical element to the ice. He makes forwards think twice about skating over the blue line or going into the corner and sticks up for smaller teammates.
When he plays a disciplined game, Gudas is one of the most fearsome players in the league. When he plays like a loose cannon, Gudas spends the majority of his time in the penalty box, or worse, watching from the press box.
The problem is, you never know which player is going to show up from night-to-night.
For much of the first half of the last year, he was putting his team at a disadvantage with bad penalties. Over the final two months of the season, though, Gudas toned down the reckless hits, remained physical, even added some offense and was one of the team’s top defensemen.
Paired with Mark Streit, Gudas played 18 minutes, 27 seconds against the Sabres, was a minus 1 and delivered three hits – none of which will garner any extra attention from the NHL.
“Overall, I thought it was a pretty good first outing,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said after the win. “He moved the puck pretty well and seemed to defend pretty well. Overall, what you want to see is for him to go out and play an efficient game. For the most part, I thought he went out and did that.”