Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Buff can't help but be beguiling

Talent, size combination magnet for attention

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DUSTIN Byfuglien says he doesn't want to be the centre of attention in Paul Maurice's early days as coach of the Winnipeg Jets.

Maurice agrees, saying there is too much focus on the big man.

Both are wishful thinkers. Byfuglien, by virtue of his size and skill, attracts eyes.

The defenceman-converted-to-right-winger scored on Thursday in Calgary and had two assists in Maurice's debut last Monday, playing with centre Olli Jokinen and left-winger Devin Setoguchi.

"I think it's been good up front," Jokinen said Friday as the Jets prepared for this afternoon's home game against the Edmonton Oilers. "I think we have four solid lines and he's a highly skilled player who's a threat to score every time.

"He's a smart player, a big guy, a tough guy to take the puck away from. It's only been two games and he'll only get better. He hasn't played up front for a while."

Jokinen is never one to reach hasty conclusions.

"Obviously there are some things he (Byfuglien) wants to work on, get the timing and all that, because it's way different playing up front than D," he said. "But I like it."

There has been the usual chatter, the veteran centre said, about a trio trying to play with one focus.

"When we get in the zone, we try to use our size and hold onto the puck," Jokinen said. "You use the back of the net as a safe play if there's nothing else. It's more about the timing and breakouts.

"I try to talk to him all the time, both of my linemates, (about) where we need to be. Because once you play with certain guys a little bit longer then you know exactly where they're going to be and it becomes automatic.

"Things like that come with playing with the same (guys) for a little bit longer than two games."

The experiment, if that's what it is, is worth continuing, based on two games.

Thursday, despite the traffic, Jokinen put the puck on Byfuglien's stick as he cruised towards the net, making it 2-0 for the Jets.

"That's where he was supposed to be," Jokinen said. "That's exactly the play we try to do, go from the corner to behind the net and he'll be in the slot going towards the net. It worked well yesterday, that play."

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 C3

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