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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Maurice content to let Buff roam at forward -- for now

Posted: 01/15/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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What a win won't do for one's outlook.

That included Winnipeg Jets swing man Dustin Byfuglien on Tuesday.

Byfuglien, in his second straight game as a right-winger on Monday night, tallied two assists and had major impact as the Jets snapped their five-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.

When Byfuglien's move to forward was made last week, he played it as neutral as possible

But there was near endorsement in his voice on Tuesday as it sounds like he's willing to play along with new coach Paul Maurice's wish to keep him at right wing while he takes stock of every element of the team.

"It'll take a few weeks for that one to take," said a smiling Byfuglien about the position shift. "That, that's not my call. He doesn't know yet and said let's just take a few days and we'll go from there.

"That's how we'll play it."

Byfuglien said, though, he was happy to hear some of the in-game feedback Maurice was doling out to his players during Monday's win.

"I guess it was good," said Byfuglien, who has 11 points in his last 10 games. "It was a little different, jumping in and going up to forward, trying to get your timing down. And getting the reads and how he'd want us to read it. It was just nice to have a little bit of talk back there like that.

"No, (I didn't mind it), not when you have questions. Other than that you don't really notice. I think every coach or someone's back there is yelling, telling you what to do."

While his night included taking a regular turn with centre Olli Jokinen and left-winger Devin Setoguchi -- Byfuglien assisted on goals by both on Monday -- he ended with more than 20 minutes of ice time because he also played the point for Winnipeg's eight power plays in the game.

He had no issues going back and forth from one position to the other, he said.

"Sometimes it's a little tough to stay on the point but it's good, I get to stay out there a little more, I guess," he said, smiling. "I'm more comfortable on D so it's a lot easier to go back there and just feel comfortable and know what I'm doing a lot better."

With Maurice's arrival only Monday, Byfuglien also expressed a patient outlook for what the future holds.

"He just popped in (Monday) and things just got going," he said. "We won't let it be the centre of everything."

That's exactly the message Maurice himself wanted out there Tuesday.

"I think there's too much focus on him, to be quite honest with you," Maurice said after Monday's practice. "Far too much.

"And certainly not an appreciation... take it from my perspective, look at the game last night. He did some spectacular things. Having the ability to do what he did up front and then be such a threat on the power play is highly unique."

The in-game incident Maurice pointed to was a third-period attempt by Byfuglien to dump the puck deep into the Phoenix. But he flubbed it.

"I heard the crowd," the coach said. "I heard them upset with that fact. That exact play happened 50 times in that game and to players on Phoenix, too. He's a pretty darn good player. We've got to talk about getting better, not bemoaning where we've been or what we've got before.

"We are a far better hockey team with Dustin Byfuglien at forward or at D playing close to his capabilities."

And Maurice said he will not be rushed nor pressured into making a decision on where he thinks Byfuglien best fits, indicating he's a right-winger for now.

"Can you imagine having a guy that big who can move like that with hands like that with some of his creative instincts that you can drop back on the blue-line or put up, depending?" he said. "I'm going to leave him there until I see something I need to change."

That Maurice said on Monday he's confident and he admires Byfuglien's talents to play defence or wing also seemed to brighten the big man's day.

"That's the first time I heard it so I guess it's good," Byfuglien said.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2014 D1

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