In the midst of a dream season on a team that will surely compete for the Stanley Cup, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas will be forced to the sidelines with a knee injury.
The knee, which he had arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday morning, will keep Gudas watching for the next four months, which would put him in line for a return come playoffs. The Lightning have had outstanding injury luck this season, but they’ll need to look to Syracuse to shore up their blueline with Gudas out of the lineup.
The 24-year-old defenseman was a surprise scratch heading into the Lightning’s game against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 31, and just days later he was already in for surgery on the knee.
"It's a little tough to digest right now, just because clearly it's more serious than we thought," coach Jon Cooper said to Tampa Bay Times reporter Joe Smith. "It's hard for me to comment, because I've had him for a long time, so I know what he means to us.
Gudas has been a full-time starter for the Lightning, missing time only when injuries didn’t allow him to slot into what is one of the most dynamic teams in the entire NHL. Averaging 17 minutes a night, Gudas’ primary partner this season was Jason Garrison, but in Gudas’ absence Garrison was paired with Andrej Sustr while rookie Nikita Nesterov slid into the lineup.
Though Gudas isn’t flashy, he brings a steady hand to a blueline that can at times use it. With smooth-skating offensive stars Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman already on the blueline, Gudas brings a different element, a tough, smash mouth game that’s paired with solid defending.
While he may not be the most notable defender, his ability to block shots and lay the body is something the Lightning will miss with him out of the lineup. Nesterov doesn’t bring near the size of Gudas or play the same game, but the added speed in the lineup with Nesterov may not hurt Tampa Bay in the long run.