Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big Buff is all-star stuff

Jets blue-liner will skate with game's elite in Ottawa

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He's been a lightning rod for criticism and, before the season had started, had drawn attention for all the wrong reasons.

Then, not long after the first puck was dropped, some wanted him moved to forward while many others wanted him on the next bus out of town. But through it all Dustin Byfuglien also managed to play some inspired hockey and now the 26-year-old defenceman is being thrust into the spotlight -- in a good way -- after being named to the roster for the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

The Winnipeg Jets announced Thursday Byfuglien had been added to the lineup and he'll make his second consecutive appearance with the star-studded squad after suiting up last winter as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers.

"He's a very worthy choice," said Jets' head coach Claude Noel. "He's a good player. He started off playing different ways... There was certainly some adjustment. He's a skilled player that, after his first 8-10 games, has really played well for us. He's really intelligent as a player, he shoots the puck a lot, but he's clever and he can separate players off the puck, he can defend.

"He's done his part and he's continued to grow. We were hoping to continue the process, but we got delayed a bit (with the injury)."

The Jets did not make Byfuglien available to the media on Thursday, saying he would speak about the honour this morning.

Byfuglien has six goals and 18 assists in 35 games this season and at the close of fan votes for the game, led all Winnipeg players with 149,405 votes.

He is 12th among NHL defencemen in scoring.

Byfuglien has missed the last eight games -- including Thursday's contest with the San Jose Sharks -- with a 'lower-body injury' and the club hopes to have him back in the lineup soon.

"We were hoping he would be close, but this is what happens with injuries... you go seven to 10 days and you're not sure how it's coming," said Noel.

"We had to look at things a little differently right now, we've kind of plateaued in his recovery. We're waiting to see. It's not day-to-day right now. He's got to get back practising with us and we'll go from there.

"We're trying to get it over the hump as far as the recovery and healing part of it. Our thoughts are we would want him to play in a game or two before he took part in the all-star game. I don't know if playing in the all-star game in his first game back from injury would be our choice. We would hope to have him back before then."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

 

A STAR-STUDDED CAST

 

Winnipeg Jets players who have participated in previous NHL All-Star Games:

 

1980 - Morris Lukowich, LW

1981 - Morris Lukowich, LW

1982 - Dale Hawerchuk, C

1983 - Dave Babych, D

1984 - Dave Babych, D

1985 - Randy Carlyle, D; Dale Hawerchuk, C; Paul MacLean, RW

1986 - Dale Hawerchuk, C

1987 - Rendez-Vous '87 - NHL All-Stars vs. USSR (Hawerchuk was on the NHL side)

1988 - Dale Hawerchuk, C

1989 - Dave Ellett, D

1990 - Doug Smail, LW

1991 - Phil Housley, D

1992 - Phil Housley, D

1993 - Randy Carlyle*, D; Phil Housley, D; Teemu Selanne, RW

1994 - Teemu Selanne, RW

1995 - NHL lockout

1996 - Teemu Selanne, RW

2012 - Dustin Byfuglien, D

 

*Commissioner's selection

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 13, 2012 C2

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