Panthers’ Gudas absent from practice ahead of Game 3 vs. Golden Knights


SUNRISE, Fla. – If the Florida Panthers are to claw their way back into a rather one-sided Stanley Cup Final, they may have to do so without the help of an integral piece of their defence corps.

Radko Gudas was taken out early in Game 2’s 7-2 loss to the Golden Knights by a hard reverse check from Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev on Monday.

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He underwent testing Tuesday and was absent from Wednesday’s team practice at FLA Live Arena.

“He’s been such a warrior for us,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “All those little things he does that nobody really sees, like the physicality, he’s the leader back there. The way he plays and that style, he’s such an important player for us. Definitely wasn’t ideal for us to see him go down.”

Gudas was injured on his 33rd birthday.

The rugged stay-at-home D-man has averaged 17:02, chipped in three assists, and has skated in all 18 of the Panthers’ playoff games this spring.

With Gudas likely out, Florida’s blueline thins quickly.

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Even with Gudas busy getting medical attention, coach Paul Maurice used seventh defenceman Casey Fitzgerald for just 10:41 in Monday’s loss.

Meanwhile, Barbashev has been impacting the series with his offence and his checking.

“Yeah, it was huge, right?” Vegas teammate Jonathan Marchessault said. “I mean, I don’t think Gudas came back after that — and he’s a pretty big part of their team. He’s super physical, a great defenceman. 

“The reverse hit in there just set the tone. We were able to cash in. I think we got the momentum really early in the game.”

Game 3 goes Thursday night in Sunrise at 8 p.m. ET and can be watched live on Sportsnet and SN NOW.

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