Midway through the second period in Tuesday's game against the Capitals, defenseman Erik Gudbranson did what has been instilled in players from a young age. He threw the puck on net.
Playing in his third game of the season, the blueliner's shot was redirected twice, first by forward Peter Mueller and then by fellow third pick overall Jonathan Huberdeau to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
For Gudbranson, it was the first point of his sophomore season.
Entering Tuesday's game, Gudbranson had felt he had taken strides in getting back into the Panthers' lineup. The biggest thing for the young blueliner is to stay even through the games.
"I felt good in Philadelphia, kept my game very simple. I think that was the key to me playing well and being consistent out there which is just making strong plays, good passes," said Gudbranson. "Washington I expanded a little bit. It was a tough game for everyone but I felt good out there, making good plays and getting my head up ice."
In his first two games, Gudbranson averaged over 21 minutes while picking up three shots, eight hits and 3 blocked shots. In the rematch against Washington, he only saw 14:11 of TOI but did hit the stat sheet in picking up that assist on two shots, a hit and two blocked shots.
With a young player, it's taking the good with the bad. On Tuesday, Gudbranson was on the ice for two Panthers goals. He was also on the ice for three Capitals goals, including one that made it 5-4 with 5:07 to play. Last season, the defenseman grew into a shut down defenseman and by the playoffs was used against the Devils top forwards.
Missing time early this season, Gudbranson knows that playing time will help him get back into it but he needs to earn it.
"Getting right into it, there's no gradual period," said Gudbranson of his return. "They're not going to put me into the lineup unless they know I can be effective and play the game I'm able to play.
"I think that's the best way to do it, it's just jump right into it."
Helping in his return came thanks to playing in two games with the San Antonio Rampage. There it was just like he was playing at the end of last season.
"Those games in the American League were certainly very helpful. I got to play a lot of minutes there and got some timing back," said Gudbranson. "The transition I would say wasn't seemless. It's a better league but it was much easier (to transition to the NHL)."
That brief stay brought back some memories of his Junior days spent with the Kingston Frontenacs.
"We got one bus trip in. It was fun going back to those days in Junior," said Gudbranson. "The fun part is taking the bus rides and going on the road like that but I had a great time. The team has a bunch of good guys and got to play some good hockey. We came back with two wins and it was a lot of fun."
Wins is what the Panthers are looking for and after the heartbreaking loss to the Capitals in front of the home crowd, Gudbranson knows that the Panthers have to be much better rest of this home stand.
"Right now it's the most important part of the season," said Gudbranson. "We need to come out here with as many points as we can. We need to create an identity for ourselves in our home rink.
"We have to play teams hard and be on top of them and use our crowd to our advantage and pull out some wins at home."
Something that Gudbranson, on a personal level, wants more than anything.
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