The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will not be hitting Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Radko Gudas with a suspension after his ugly hit on Florida Panthers winger Scottie Upshall.

No penalty was called on the play. “The ref obviously said he didn’t see it,” said Upshall after the game. Referees for the game were Brian Pochmara (#16) and Kevin Pollock (#33).  Upshall was helped off the ice but returned to the game later in the period.

Department of Player Safety head Stephane Quintal reportedly called Gudas to discuss the play and give the defensemen a warning, saying that the hit on Upshall was ‘close to the edge.’

The NHL Department of Player Safety advised that: “Gudas hit on Upshall merited warning but not (Supplemental Discipline) for the following reasons. Per Rule 48: “When determining whether contact with an opponent’s head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit shall be considered.” Here, Upshall assumed a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full-body check unavoidable. Also, contact was in immediate aftermath of Gudas playing puck.”

Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser discussed the play, agreeing with the Department of Player Safety’s decision not to suspend Gudas:

While I believe a minor penalty should have been called on the play it will not result in a suspension to Gudas.

Once Gudas began to step up and pinch from his defense position inside the blue line, Upshall placed himself in a vulnerable position with a lowered posture and his head looking down at the puck.

Gudas approached Upshall from a slight angle as opposed to straight on and first separated Upshall from the puck with a poke-check. This demonstrates a conscious effort to play the puck first as opposed to delivering a devastating hit on a vulnerable player.

Gudas’ elbow remained in a tucked position and his skates firmly planted on the ice. While there was certainly contact to Upshall’s head as Gudas slid by to deliver an intended shoulder check, I would contend that it was not the main point of contact.

Retribution for Gatorade?

This isn’t the first time Gudas and Upshall have crossed paths.

Upshall said that Gudas referenced the incident after the hit.  “‘That’s what you get for squirting me with Gatorade,’ (Gudas said) when he went by,” said Upshall.  The Tampa defenseman denies Upshall’s allegations.  “In all honesty, I found out later (it was Upshall). It could have been anybody,” Gudas told reporters.

The two cross-state rivals inexplicably won’t meet again until March, so any retribution from the Panthers will have to wait.