Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas got away with one.
Thursday night during the second period of the Lightning's 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers, Gudas hit Panthers forward Scottie Upshall with a forearm shiver to the head. Upshall dropped to the ice and was helped off while Gudas was not penalized for the play. Upshall returned to the game in the third period.
The NHL decided not to punish Gudas for the play and gave him a phone call to tell him he's close to crossing the line. The Department of Player Safety explained it all on Twitter:
(1) Gudas hit on Upshall merited warning but not SD for the following reasons:...— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) October 10, 2014
(2) Per Rule 48: "When determining whether contact with an opponent's head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit shall be considered."— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) October 10, 2014
(3) Here, Upshall assumed a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full-body check unavoidable. pic.twitter.com/IGmlYp5WzD— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) October 10, 2014
(4) Also, contact was in immediate aftermath of Gudas playing puck.— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) October 10, 2014
Some of this makes good sense in explaining what happened on a bang-bang play. What's not explained is how Gudas appears to stick out his forearm and elbow to make violent contact with Upshall's head.
Yes, Upshall has his head down and the DOPS explanation puts the blame on the hit for that, but Gudas is seemingly absolved of any wrong-doing and there's something that feels a bit uncomfortable about that.
The assumption that appears to be made is that a hit would've been made no matter what and that it's up to Upshall to not make himself vulnerable. That part of it makes it similar to the play in which Matt Niskanen hit Jeff Skinner and gave the Carolina Hurricanes star yet another concussion, albeit that was a more bad timing than anything. Had Skinner not turned his head so quickly, Niskanen hits him in the back.
This play though? It seems a lot different and it's not as if Gudas has a spotless track record when it comes to questionable hits. Take this hit against Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel that resulted in a match penalty.
Then add in this tidbit from Arthur Staple of Newsday.
Per LRT, Gudas is public enemy No. 1 in #Isles room after takedown of Tavares last season led to 91 missing two games. Isles in Tampa 11/15.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 10, 2014
While Gudas has never been suspended and the league has now told him he's close to crossing the line, the argument is easy to make that he may have already done that.