Looking like a hunter stalking prey Radko Gudas lined up Minnesota’s Kyle Brodziak and delivered a text book hip check sending Brodziak head-over-heels into the side boards.

The play elicited a roar from the crowd and a retaliation penalty from Wild defenseman Marco Scandella.

When executed properly the hip check is a lost art form capable of giving a lift to the bench and forcing opposing players to be on alert and keep their heads up.

Gudas might be the best around right now at doing just that.

“He picks his spots his timing is down and sometimes he does put himself out of control but he is one of those guys that has an innate ability to know when you are coming” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

“It’s not going to be long until everybody in the league realizes when he is on the ice. And that’s one of those guys that you are really happy is on your bench and not the other.’’

That imposing physical element used to be the only part of Gudas’ game he liked to play. The 6-foot 205-pound defenseman would go on a seek-and-destroy mission each time he jumped over the boards looking to deliver the big hit.

Often however that came with a sacrifice — taking himself out of position and exposing his defensive partner to odd-man rushes.

Having just that physical part of his game would have kept him in hockey for a long time and he would have been a fan favorite wherever he landed. But it wouldn’t have resulted in his ascension to a regular spot in a National Hockey League lineup.

So as the Lightning rookie who appeared in 22 games with Tampa Bay last season made his way up the depth chart in the American Hockey League he started to round out his game. He learned poise with the puck in the defensive zone. He became better at making decisions to get out of his own end.

He became a reliable defender the coaching staff can count on.