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A new home for 33?

Jets, Buff coy after big D-man practises at forward

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There was a signal Thursday that a significant lineup shakeup is a possibility for the Winnipeg Jets.

Mired in a four-game losing streak and last in the NHL's Central Division, the 19-22-5 team had defenceman Dustin Byfuglien practising as a forward at the MTS Centre.

Byfuglien said the only information he had on the matter was that the team was short forwards for the practice on Thursday -- Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler were away with the flu and Evander Kane was getting a health maintenance day -- and he was asked to move up.

"What I was told was that we were just short numbers so I can go play forward today," Byfuglien said. "That's all I've been told so far."

Jets coach Claude Noel was very vague when asked if it was a one-day move, or more permanent.

We'll reassess the situation tomorrow so if you guys pay attention to practice, maybe you can take a look and see what you think'

--Jets coach Claude Noel to the media on where Byfuglien may play Saturday

"We're not sure what'll happen with Buff but if he's in there for the game (Saturday at home against Columbus), we will be the ones that will determine that will be the best thing for us to get us a win, to get us on track," he said. "So we'll see tomorrow. We were short today, we had some body issues today. We had to kind of get through practice and there's a number of things we're looking at doing.

"We'll reassess the situation tomorrow so if you guys pay attention to practice, maybe you can take a look and see what you think."

Byfuglien, who has come under fire for his defensive shortcomings of late, has been a forward for part of his career. He even took a turn up front for a game and a bit late last season, but that didn't last.

It's not known what role Noel might see ahead for Byfuglien, but it seems unlikely it will be a bit part. Keep in mind he's seen time with Bryan Little and Ladd before.

"Whatever's best for the team," Byfuglien said. "Whatever I can do to help, I'll do. It's not my decision."

'Whatever's best for the team. Whatever I can do to help, I'll do. It's not my decision'

--Dustin Byfuglien, on where he may or may not play

Byfuglien also took questions Thursday about the team's plight.

He was asked what he'd say to fans.

"We just have to worry about ourselves in here," Byfuglien said. "That's the bottom line. We have to find our own way. We can't worry about what other people think."

On the possibility of a turnaround, it's clear he's as frustrated as anyone.

"We can win four or five, they're still going to be all over us," he said. "It is what it is.

"We're a team here and we're going to stick with it, stick together through it all. It's a bumpy road but we just have to stick together and we'll be fine."

Byfuglien got a couple of questions on the mood and functionality of the dressing room.

"After a while, somehow you just get closer and you find a way," he said. "You just never know what could happen. You've just got to stick together as a group.

"Things can change but all we can do is go out and work and do what we're told. We don't change anything. Players, we just come to work. The coach does the rest."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 10, 2014 C3

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