Radko Gudas

Flyers' Radko Gudas set to return from suspension, but did he learn his lesson?

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Flyers' Radko Gudas set to return from suspension, but did he learn his lesson?

He plays the game as if he’s preparing to be attacked in a dark, damp alley, but once you get Radko Gudas away from the rink, the guy teammates call “Gudy” is good for a few laughs. He may have the most easygoing personality on the Flyers outside of Michael Raffl, and over the past three weeks, Gudas has been counted on for a little comic relief.

“I try and help the guys out as much as I can,” Gudas said recently. “Try to make guys laugh every once in awhile. We’ve had a pretty tough stretch. Everything’s not going our way so I’m trying to find anything that will help the guys get in better spirits.”

That may have been Gudas’ toughest job of all throughout the Flyers' 10-game winless streak. Now he resumes his role of team tough guy after serving a 10-game suspension — the longest of his six-year career — for his nasty slash to the back of Mathieu Perreault’s neck in Winnipeg. 

Unlike the NFL — where suspended players can’t be anywhere near the team or their workout facilities — Gudas has been skating and practicing as if he was preparing to play.

When the Flyers return to the practice rink Sunday, Gudas will be reinstated and eligible for the Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the opener of a five-game homestand.

“I’m looking forward to it — playing the next home game against Toronto — so I’ve got that date circled on my calendar. I’m looking forward to helping the boys out,” Gudas said. “Family kept me together. I think they helped me out a lot through this. Just giving me encouragement, being there for me.”

“We’ve missed him, for sure,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “I think it’s not an excuse. You've got him, you've got [Andrew MacDonald] out, it’s that veteran presence. Not only on the ice, but off the ice, and guys go back to the bench. The young guys were reeling a little bit here. Guys get their heads back on track with the veteran influence. It’s important. Of course, we miss Gudy.”

As strange as it may sound, Gudas provides a calming presence to some of the rookies. The question moving forward is who plays that role with Gudas when tensions start to run high? Two seasons ago, management met with Gudas after his overaggressive play was starting to become a detriment to the team.

Coming into Thursday’s game against the Canucks, Gudas was tied with Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds on the Flyers with 12 individual penalties taken. But if you measure that number by minutes played, Gudas leads the team by a long stretch, with one penalty for every 21.9 minutes he’s on the ice, including two major penalties.

“Radko hits hard. He hits as hard as anybody in the league,” Hextall said after Gudas received a major for boarding earlier this season in Ottawa. “His hits are impact hits.”

Gudas is also quickly learning the NHL hits back, and hitting Gudas where it hurts. As a result of his past two suspensions, Gudas has missed 16 games and has forfeited over $650,000. For a league looking to rid itself of its wild-west mentality pertaining to illegal hits to the head, there’s now a "Wanted" poster of Gudas nailed somewhere in its New York headquarters. However, the Flyers' defenseman believes he has a better understanding moving forward following a meeting with George Parros, head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

“I think it was pretty good to meet with each other,” Gudas said. “I found out what they want from me and what they would like to see differently in case anything like this happens. I got good feedback from him and I’m looking forward to adapting to these things and trying to be as best as I can for my team.”

Can the Flyers maintain their disciplined ways with Gudas returning to the lineup? In their recent three-game road trip, the Flyers stayed out of the box, killing off just two power plays in each of those three wins. Now comes Gudas with his own bull's-eye that opponents will be targeting, goading him to step over the line just one more time.

“He’s done a really good job over the last year,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I don’t think it will be something that will be in the back of his mind. I think it’s something he’s looked at, he’s evaluated. You have to take it and evaluate it for what it is, try and learn a little bit from it. You've got to park it and move forward, and that’s what he’ll do.”

After players-only meeting, Flyers unable to put a finger on issues

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After players-only meeting, Flyers unable to put a finger on issues

VOORHEES, N.J. — If a players-only meeting lends the appearance the Flyers are grasping at straws, that’s probably because the team can’t explain how it has managed to lose nine in a row. Or, more importantly, how exactly it's going to turn its season around.

Back at practice on Thursday, the Flyers divulged little from the closed-door conversation that followed a 3-1 loss to the Sharks two days earlier. But they did put on a united front and promised there will be no finger-pointing to come.

“It’s frustrating going through this stretch, but it was more or less we have each other’s backs,” Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “We got into this together, we’re going to get out of it together.”

With the defeats beginning to pile up, and concerns over Flyers coach Dave Hakstol’s job security intensifying, perhaps players simply felt the need to address the atmosphere inside the locker room.

“It’s not nice air around here when you don’t win for nine games in a row,” said Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas, who’s currently serving a 10-game suspension. “The guys have a little better feeling of which way we’re going to head and what we need to do to get the two points in our next game.”

As far as solutions to halting a skid that’s almost three weeks in the making, it didn’t sound as though the Flyers touched on anything overly specific during the meeting.

“No one is happy about what’s going on, but we’re sticking together,” Flyers center Sean Couturier said. “Everyone has their part of responsibility during this stretch. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and be better.”

The question is: Better at what exactly?

To be honest, the Flyers don’t seem entirely certain of the answer.

The Flyers have lost games when they couldn’t score goals, others when they couldn’t hold leads. There have been games when the power play has failed them, others when they weren’t able to kill enough penalties.

It’s little things. And it’s a little bit of everything.

“There’s probably a couple of areas of our game where we have to simplify things for sure, even mentally, trying to do things with a real clear purpose,” Hakstol said. “But we still have to continue adding detail to our game.”

Even when looking at one phase under the microscope, such as a struggling Flyers penalty kill that’s allowed 10 goals over the last six games, the dilemma is multifaceted and complex.

“We’ve looked at trying to change it up a little bit with some of the personnel, but it’s not that easy,” Hakstol said. “If it was that simple, you would flip that switch right away.

“You can say we’ve given up PK goals, but it’s different areas that we’ve given them up in terms of the type of goals.”

Despite inconsistencies across the board, some Flyers players also don’t necessarily feel the team has played as poorly as the 0-4-5 record would indicate.

“We’re not playing bad for nine games,” Couturier said. “There’s a bit of bad luck. We have to keep working hard, sticking together and create our own bounces, creating our own luck. Things eventually have to go our way.”

The proliferation of overtime and shootout losses might support Couturier’s case. Just one play here, one play there, and we’re not talking about how the Flyers have merely been mediocre in November as opposed to being mired in a weeks-long losing streak.

Others feel while the performance on the ice hasn’t been as unsatisfactory as the results, players are pressing as the slump drags on.

“Even though we were playing well during the start of this drought, we weren’t getting wins, we weren’t scoring goals, and during those kinds of times, you tend to reach a little bit more,” MacDonald said. “Guys maybe tried to do too much.

“It’s certainly not a fault for effort or anything like that. It’s more than anything wanting to help the team win even more. It’s tough when those things happen. You try to do a little bit too much, then you’re out of position and it kind of snowballs a little bit.”

Still, the only common thread here is the lack of a common thread at all. It’s the little things, and it’s the big things. The game plan is neither simple nor detailed enough. It’s mental, but it’s bad luck.

Maybe the Flyers, with a young, retooling roster that missed the playoffs last season, are growing through some inevitable growing pains.

“We just have to be better,” Couturier said. “It’s plain and simple. It’s a lot of little things, but we just have to be better overall.”

Stuck in last place in the Metropolitan Division with 23 points in 25 games, the Flyers need to get a lot better — and that’s not going to be easy if they haven’t figured out what the problem is.

Hakstol on Martel, Weal
Despite returning Danick Martel to the Phantoms on Wednesday, the Flyers were impressed with the rookie forward’s speed. The 22-year-old’s stamina, on the other hand, is still a work in progress.

“He really added a ton of energy, especially early on,” Hakstol said. “The last game here we had a lot of tired legs, and he was one of them, but he showed he has that burst that can impact games a little bit offensively.”

Martel appeared in four games for the Flyers, registering a minus-1 and six shots on goal. However, he was limited to just 12 shifts and under nine minutes of ice time in each of his last two contests, a decision Hakstol made as the winger’s speed diminished.

“I didn’t think he was all that effective as we were going through that game,” Hakstol said of Tuesday’s contest against the Sharks. “He has to have that burst in order to play the way he needs to play to generate offensive opportunities. Back end of a back-to-back, he didn’t have that burst.”

With Jordan Weal ready to return to the lineup after sitting out the last two games as a healthy scratch, it sounds like we’ve seen the last of Martel with the Flyers for a little while.

“He just needs to keep working towards it,” Hakstol said. “It was a real good opportunity for him to play his first National Hockey League games, and we saw a lot of things we liked in him.”

As for Weal, the Flyers are hoping the second-year player can get back on track. After recording two goals and four assists over his first 14 games this season, he is scoreless with a minus-3 rating in his last seven.

“He needs to hit the restart button and have a fresh start, and that’s exactly what this opportunity should provide for him is a fresh start,” Hakstol said.

“His work ethic, his passion, none of that is lacking, nor has it ever been. It’s a little bit of a restart for him so he can get back in the lineup and have that fresh feel and fresh start.”

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Gudas reacts, roster buzz, more

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Gudas reacts, roster buzz, more

Updated: Tuesday, 12:38 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — Radko Gudas helped warm up the goalie before practice.
 
He was also one of the last players off the ice.
 
This will be usual for the next three weeks when the Flyers' defenseman serves the remainder of a 10-game suspension handed down Sunday night by the NHL's Department of Player Safety. The punitive actions are a result of Gudas' slash to the head of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault during last Thursday's game.
 
Gudas and the Flyers don't have to agree with the decision, but they must move past it.
 
"I don't think it was intentional by any means, but the league is going to do what it wants to do," Wayne Simmonds said Monday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I don't agree with it, I don't think anyone in here agrees with it. But what are you going to do? That's the league."
 
Despite being considered a repeat offender, Gudas was "surprised" by the suspension's length.
 
"I didn't really expect that, no," Gudas said.
 
"I don't agree with it, but I accept their decision. Not much else I can say."
 
Understandably, Gudas was not in much of a mood to discuss the incident and simply said it was accidental from his side.
 
"I'm not recapping the play, no, it is what it is," Gudas said.
 
"Before, I've never used my stick in any way like that. It was unfortunate."
 
Saturday's loss to Calgary, which Gudas missed because his hearing was not until Sunday, marked the start of the ban, meaning he'll miss the next nine games and will be eligible to return on Dec. 12 against the Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
With Gudas out, the Flyers lose a contributor on the penalty kill. The burly defenseman is sixth among all Flyers in short-handed time on ice at 35:52 and second in blocked shots on the PK with nine.
 
"Gudy's really good physically, he's great on the PK, he's got some surprising hands on him, too," Simmonds said. "We've got a lot of young guys back there, they're going to fill in. And for the majority of the season, they've played really well, the young guys have done a very good job."
 
One of those young guys will be Mark Alt. The 26-year-old rookie has played five games this season and will draw into the lineup again on Tuesday night when the Flyers host the Canucks (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia). 
 
And he very well could play Wednesday in Brooklyn against the Islanders. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald practiced Monday, but took reps with Gudas, while Alt was alongside Travis Sanheim. MacDonald, out since Oct. 24 with a lower-body injury, said he's not ready to return Tuesday and doesn't believe he'll be back Wednesday, either.
 
"Everybody just has to trust the teammates, go out and do their part and know that the next guy up will do his part," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said, "and I'm confident that the guys will do that."
 
"The league's made the decision. For me, my outlook is who steps in now for Gudy and his role, who steps up and takes advantage of that opportunity and helps our hockey team? On the individual side, for Gudy, we've got three weeks of work here to do to make sure he's as ready as possible to come back in our lineup when he is eligible."
 
Roster buzz
Speaking of MacDonald, he is currently on injured reserve and a roster spot must open for when he returns.
 
Forward Matt Read was placed on waivers Monday, according to a report by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman. This is presumably to clear the way for MacDonald or a call-up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. With MacDonald still out and Gudas suspended, the Flyers have only six active defensemen.

Read, 31 years old and with just four games played this season, was placed on waivers at the start of 2017-18 and went unclaimed, which sent him to the Phantoms.

To no surprise, Read cleared waivers Tuesday, according to Friedman. Read took part in morning skate and will likely report back to Lehigh Valley at some point this week.

That's Weal talk
Forward Jordan Weal practiced and is good to go after missing Saturday's game with an upper-body injury.
 
Weal last Thursday took a nasty elbow/high hit at center ice from Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who was not whistled for a penalty or punished by the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
 
"I thought it was a blindside hit, to be honest with you," Simmonds said. "The league can do what they want. … We just kind of have to go with it."

Weal, tough for 5-foot-10, 179 pounds, shrugged off the blow from the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Byfuglien.
 
"I didn't really watch the full play, I was going to watch that today," Weal said. "He's a big guy, I'm a little guy, so [the hit] is always going to look a little bigger than it actually is. Throughout the game, things happen … solid check."
 
Let's play outside!

Claude Giroux and Simmonds were both excited about Sunday's announcement of next season's outdoor game against the rival Penguins.
 
The game on Feb. 23, 2019, will be part of the NHL Stadium Series. Last season, the Flyers played Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, home of the Steelers.
 
Next season, it's time for Lincoln Financial Field.
 
"It's definitely cool," Giroux said. "I've had a lot of games outdoor, they've all been pretty special. This one will be special, too, especially in Philly and that building is always fun to go to. So being able to play in it, it's going to be pretty cool."
 
Unlike NHL arenas, where attendance is around 19,000-20,000 people, the Linc can hold between 69,500 and 70,000.
 
"That's pretty cool," Simmonds said. "Obviously a really great opportunity when you get a chance to play in an outdoor game. This will be, since I've been here, our third opportunity to do that. Hopefully, we can get the win this time.
 
"Those are always fun — 60,000, 70,000 people in the stands all rooting and cheering for you. And we're on the home side this time, so it's going to be unbelievable."
 
Projected lineup
Here are the lines, pairings and goalies from Monday's practice.
 
Michal Neuvirth is expected to start in net Tuesday, the first game of a back-to-back for the Flyers.
 
Winger Dale Weise, after playing eight straight games, will likely be a healthy scratch.
 
Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera
 
Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott