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Byfuglien is feeling fine, thanks, says it's just how the puck bounces

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DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN was certainly not trying to oversell his game and appeared to be asking for some patience when he spoke to reporters on Sunday after the Winnipeg Jets held a brief practice at the MTS Centre.

The team's most-used player -- he averages more than 24 minutes per game -- has infrequent conversations with reporters but engaged a group before the Jets left for tonight's game against the New York Rangers (6 p.m. CT, TSN Jets, TSN 1290), the start to a three-game road trip.

"Pretty good I guess. It's a grind but everything's feeling pretty good," Byfuglien said about how he's feeling. "It (his game) is a bit of a rollercoaster but for the most part I feel pretty good.

"Pucks don't go your way, bounces, you fight it a little bit but I seem to be able to come back and have a good shift afterwards..."

Byfuglien has six goals and 21 points with a plus-one this season, though he's had six games in which he's been a minus in the last 15 days. He was asked about his own recent inconsistencies.

"I don't think there's any reason," he said. "It's hockey. Sometimes s bounces the wrong way."

The big defenceman said an even keel is the only way to approach such a frantic season.

"You have to," he said. "You can't sit and dwell on what happened last night. You've got to wake up and come to work the next day and be ready for the next team. There's no time to sit and think about what we did wrong.

"You have to start thinking about the next one, how we can be better."

Jets coach Claude Noel said after Saturday's loss to Carolina, Byfuglien's been "up and down."

He offered more on the matter Sunday.

"Players never go into any stretch of time trying to be inconsistent," the coach said. "They'd like to be consistent, love to be able to present their A game but it doesn't work that way. Certain things happen during games. That's the biggest challenge for any pro player, try to be steady and consistent.

"He understands the implications of a good game versus not. So he's doing his best. And hopefully he puts his best foot forward in these next 12 games."

Noel offered a strong hint that the Jets' fortunes have plenty to do with Byfuglien's play.

"He's very important because when he goes, we go pretty good behind him," Noel said.

Including Byfuglien's appearance on Sunday, the Jets' locker-room does have a pretty relaxed feel, given that the pressures are mounting in the playoff race and the NHL's trading deadline is only a couple of days away.

"I'd say most guys are pretty confident that not too much is going to go on," Byfuglien said about the deadline. "Then again, you never know. It's a business that you can be gone any time. You can really do nothing but continue to work and be prepared to come to the rink again the next day."

Looking ahead to the road games this week, against the Rangers, Islanders on Tuesday and Montreal on Thursday, Byfuglien pointed to the team's 10-7-2 mark away from home.

"Fortunately this year we've been better on the road," he said. "I don't know if there's a reason for it. We just seem to be willing to play harder on the road."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 1, 2013 C1

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