Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Buff talks a good game

Normally reserved blue-liner has yappy on-ice persona

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Chicago goalie Corey Crawford shuts the door on Winnipeg blue-liner Dustin Byfuglien (33) during first-period action Wednesday.

NAM Y. HUH / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Chicago goalie Corey Crawford shuts the door on Winnipeg blue-liner Dustin Byfuglien (33) during first-period action Wednesday.

CHICAGO -- Whatever his reasons, Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is usually a soft-spoken man of very few words.

And there aren't many opportunities to get those words out of him, given his shy disposition towards the public spotlight and the media.

His friends, however, say differently and Wednesday was an exception to the rule, in part because the 28-year-old blue-liner was back in familiar territory, Chicago, where he's had one of the best experiences of his hockey career.

Before facing some of his friends and former teammates when the Jets met the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night, Byfuglien's guard was clearly down and what came shining through was the personality that those who know him well always mention.

'There's a lot of talking on the ice every shift you're against Buff. He'll try to get in your head and make it look like he's serious. Half the time, I'd say most of the time he's not and he finds a way to keep it light. That's just part of his game, I guess'

-- Hawks captain Jonathan Toews on former teammate Dustin Byfuglien

The morning banter started with Chicago captain Jonathan Toews taking a question about facing his former teammate Saturday and again Wednesday night.

"There's a lot of talking on the ice every shift you're against Buff," said Toews, more than happy to spill the beans on some of the in-game drama.

"He'll try to get in your head and make it look like he's serious. Half the time, I'd say most of the time he's not and he finds a way to keep it light. That's just part of his game, I guess."

Toews said there was a great example late in last Saturday's game in Winnipeg.

"There was one scrum in the third period where I think he was trying to punch Hoss (Marian Hossa) in the chest or something and he caught his stick and it hit me in the head with Hossa's stick by accident. We were all kind of laughing about that."

And then, with laughter about what comes next, Toews said: "I'll have to get a couple of licks in on him maybe."

While going through his morning routine down the hallway at United Center, Byfuglien was told about Toews' revelations.

A major grin appeared instantly as he confessed.

"Yeah, it's just playing the game," Byfuglien said. "I don't know, it's just chatting. No reason, just talk. It's just kind of how I play. It doesn't matter who you are, just to make you f ing think what's going on."

The vulgarity was just part of the cat-and-mouse back-and-forth he is said to enjoy with his teammates and rivals.

It's just the way he's always been, Byfuglien said.

"It's just me doing it," he said. "No rhyme or reason. I just chat and have fun. I've always been like that. No reason for it or not, I just do it."

It was difficult to tell from afar on Wednesday night that it was continuing against his former team, but clearly the big defenceman was on his toes, trying to initiate plays.

Regardless that some of that backfired with his minus-three rating on the night. He will eventually have something to say about that, too. The next time he lets his guard down.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 7, 2013 D3

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