SUNRISE — Radko Gudas, freshly called up from AHL Syracuse with a nasty streak and big-hit ability, played his first NHL game Tuesday for the Lightning.
The main topic of conversation, though, was the burly defenseman's beard, growing since Jan. 1 and reaching Paul Bunyan proportions.
"I don't know if it makes him look scarier or weirder," coach Guy Boucher said, "but I'll take whatever he's wearing if he plays like I've seen him play."
Gudas, 22, drafted 66th overall in 2010, is an AHL-best plus-32 this season with the Crunch. At 6 feet, 204 pounds, he is not afraid to fight and has 207 penalty minutes in 57 games with four goals and 20 points. But it's that beard that demands attention.
"People notice him," said LW Alex Killorn, Gudas' former Crunch teammate. "If you look at him, he looks pretty mean. Off the ice, he's a great guy."
Gudas showed a sense of humor discussing his whiskers.
He said the beard really took off in January when he came to Lightning camp (and didn't shave) then went with the Crunch on a team bonding trip to Lake Placid, N.Y. (and didn't shave).
And when the Crunch began promoting a Fear the Beard night, he really couldn't shave.
Beyond that, he said he's "lazy" about shaving and "it's cold in Syracuse. It just keeps me warm."
The beard inspired a Twitter account — @RadkoGudasBeard — with which Gudas said he is not involved.
"I just let it go," Gudas said, stroking his beard. "It grows like this. I'm a lucky guy."
DEBUT: Gudas had 15:20 of ice time with two hits and three blocked shots. He also got tangled with Florida's Kris Versteeg on a play that resulted in what seemed a knee-to-knee hit that knocked Versteeg out of the game and replays showed was inadvertent.
"I wasn't going to hurt him," Gudas said. "I went for the puck and turned my back to him and he tried to jump around me."
Lee sits: D Brian Lee's minus-13 entered Tuesday better than only two of the NHL's 751 listed players, and his missed assignment Saturday contributed to the deciding goal in a 4-3 loss to the Canadiens.
That is why Lee received what Boucher called "a thinker," that is, being a healthy scratch.
"Give him time to think and refocus so he's better when he comes back," Boucher said.
Friendly enemies: Tampa Bay's Anders Lindback and Florida's Jacob Markstrom grew up a few blocks from each other in Gavle, Sweden, their families were friends and the goalies played together for Brynas in their hometown.
"Since we played on the same teams we're used to competing against each other because we're competing for ice time," Lindback said.
Odds and ends: RW Marty St. Louis has three goals, nine assists in a seven-game points streak. … G Mathieu Garon was activated off injured reserve and backed up Lindback. … G Cedrick Desjardins was reassigned to Syracuse. … Forwards Adam Hall and Pierre-Cedric Labrie also were scratched as Tampa Bay went with seven defensemen. … A group of 40 to 50 Lightning employees bused to the game.