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NOTEBOOK: Gudas Bringing the Pain for the Panthers

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2/16/21 Practice

2/16/21 Practice

The Florida Panthers stay loose and fresh with a team practice day in Raleigh, N.C.

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In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, Radko Gudas has been bringing the pain for the Panthers, Jonathan Huberdeau is excited to face an old friend and Chris Driedger gets the nod.

When the Lightning made their push, Radko Gudas pushed back… hard.

After exiting the game briefly, the man they call "The Butcher" wasted no time in making his presence felt after returning to the ice in the third period of Monday's 6-4 win at Amalie Arena.

Helping swing momentum back in Florida's favor as the team held onto the lead with just over seven minutes left in regulation, Gudas sent Barclay Goodrow into the boards with a big hit in the defensive zone that not only shut down Tampa Bay's attack, but also fired up social media.

Tweet from @JamesonCoop: 💥 pic.twitter.com/4vO3PPCwUT

Following the booming check, Gudas also dropped the gloves and danced with Yanni Gourde.

"He certainly does bring an element of competitiveness and physicality," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said after Tuesday's practice in Raleigh. "The guys rallied around him when he was getting excited to get back out there for the third [period]. He brings the intangibles."

Dolling out punishment at an outstanding rate during his first season with the Panthers, Gudas, who signed a three-year contract with Florida during free agency, currently leads both the team and the entire NHL in total hits with 72, including racking up at least six in seven of 13 contests.

Looking at his career as a whole, Gudas has never quite thrown the body like this over his nine seasons in the NHL. In fact, his 19.49 hits per 60 minutes not only lead the league, but are also almost six more than his previous career-high of 13.96 that he recorded as a rookie in 2012-13.

"He's really good," Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau said of Gudas, who also has two assists. "He's physical. Defensively, he gets some pucks out by being physical. That's what we needed. I think we were missing a defenseman like him. He's just been great this whole year."

Beyond the physicality he brings to the blue line, Gudas has also been a solid possession player at 5-on-5 despite starting fewer than 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Per the website NaturalStatTrick.com, he boasts a 50.79 CF% and a 52.75 xGF% at even strength.

When Gudas has been on the ice at 5-on-5, the Panthers also own a 14-6 advantage in goals.

"He does a lot of finishing of his checks and he's strong in the puck areas," Quenneville said. "I think overall he's done a nice job of playing the game. I think his thoughts and his mind have been very effective. He puts himself in a lot of good spots."

Want to hear from the man himself? Check out Gudas' recent interview on Territory Talk below.

OLD FRIENDS FACE OFF

Time flies, doesn't it?

Almost a full year after Vincent Trocheck was sent to the Hurricanes in a multi-player deal, the Panthers will face their old friend and teammate for the first time on Wednesday in Carolina.

"I've watched the highlights and seen him in the uniform," said Huberdeau, who often rode with Trocheck to games during parts of the seven seasons they spent together in Florida. "Like you said, he's a good friend, but it's part of the business. Guys get traded. It was tough when he left that day, but now you get used to it. We're still friends and we'll be friends for a long time."

Taken by the Panthers in the third round (64th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, Trocheck still ranks 11th in franchise history in goals (111) and ninth in both assists (171) and points (282).

"It'll be fun," Huberdeau said of facing Trocheck, who wears No. 16 in Carolina in honor of Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov. "Obviously, me and Troch were pretty close when he was playing with us. It's going to be special, but obviously there's no friends on the ice. It's going to be good to see him out there, for sure."

DRIEDGER GETS THE NOD

Quenneville said the Panthers will go back to Chris Driedger on Wednesday.

Returning to the net after backing up Sergei Bobrovsky for three straight games, the 26-year-old goaltender made 27 saves in Monday's 6-4 win over the Lightning. Off to a hot start this season, he's jumped out to a 4-1-1 record with a 2.31 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

In the lone start of his career against the Hurricanes, Driedger turned aside 42 of 44 shots to lift the Panthers to a 4-2 win at PNC Arena on Dec. 21, 2019. A late bloomer, that was just the third start of his career. In 18 career games with the Cats, he's 11-3-2 with a .934 save percentage.

With the Panthers sitting at 9-2-2, Quenneville expects "another good test" in Raleigh tomorrow.

"Carolina's playing extremely well," Quenneville said of the Hurricanes, who are tied with Florida in the standings with 20 points. "They skate and they work, and they can make plays. They have a lot of skill on their side here... Let's make sure we check well and manage the puck."

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