Dustin Byfuglien – our man at the All-Star game

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LOS ANGELES, CA — He’s been a defenceman, a forward and a hybrid of both.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/01/2015 (2884 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

LOS ANGELES, CA — He’s been a defenceman, a forward and a hybrid of both.

And now Dustin Byfuglien has another designation: National Hockey League all-star.

The NHL filled out the rosters for the all-star game on Saturday and the Winnipeg Jets defenceman will represent the club this month in Columbus.

John Woods / Canadian Press Winnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien (33) celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Winnipeg on Saturday, January 3, 2015. Byfuglien will represent the Jets at the National Hockey League All-Star game this month.

“It’s good. It’s a privilege and an honour to represent your team and I get to go hang out with some different teammates for the weekend,” said Byfuglien after the Jets game-day skate in advance of Saturday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Kings. “I’m excited. I’ve still got a job to do and I’ve just got to keep working.”

Byfuglien was also selected to represent the Jets at the 2012 All-Star Game, but was injured at the time and did not attend the festivities. There was no all-star game in 2013 because of the lockout and last winter because of the Olympic break.

“It kinda sucks any time you miss it. I get to, hopefully, sit out until it happens and then I’ll get to go,” said Byfuglien with a smirk. “No… it will be fun.”

The 29-year-old Minnesota product has nine goals and 13 assists in 41 games for the Jets this season. But it’s been his play on the blueline in recent weeks — after a rash of injuries forced him back there from right wing — that has been critical in keeping the Jets in the Western Conference playoff race.

His offensive production has been solid, but his attention to detail in the defensive zone has been improved and his physical dominance has made him a difference maker and a game changer.

“Good for him,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “I wonder if that’s happened before? A guy starts the season and plays the bulk of time at one position, moves to the other and becomes an all-star. Research that, will ya?

“That’s pretty impressive, that he gets that kind of acknowledgement for quality of his play.

“(The initital move back to defence) was a tryout. It really was,” added Maurice. “He’s a player that wants to play defence and there have been a lot of changes here. He’s a very smart guy, so he knew what we were talking about when we asked him to fit in to what we were trying to do. He’s picked his spots and then used the offensive gifts that he has at the right time. He’s a big, physical force. He’s played a good solid game of defence and then put up some numbers for us.”

Maurice raved about Byfuglien’s hockey IQ and his ability to read plays. When it was suggested that maybe that skill might make him a good coach one day, Maurice grinned.

“If they figured out a way to put an ice-fishing hole in the middle of that,” said Maurice, nodding toward the ice surface, “I think you might see Buff out on the ice.”

Byfuglien was asked if he felt any extra pride in the all-star announcement because it came as a defenceman and only after he was moved there on what was initially seen only as an emergency basis.

“It definitely helps boost everything up a little bit,” he said. “But now we’re starting to get our numbers back around here. So I’ve still got my job cut out, I’m still on a tryout it feels like.”

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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