Big Buff didn’t hit a high note with his shot, but he’s having a great time in Music City

Slap happy


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NASHVILLE — Only at the NHL skills competition and all-star weekend would you see such smiles after such a trouncing.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/01/2016 (2393 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

NASHVILLE — Only at the NHL skills competition and all-star weekend would you see such smiles after such a trouncing.

The Eastern Conference throttled the Western Conference 29-12 in Saturday’s skills affair at Bridgestone Arena.

It was worth bragging rights for a year plus the choice of early or late games Sunday when the all-star game, a three-on-three affair between the four divisions, will be played as a mini-tournament.

The East chose to have their semifinal first at 4 p.m., so it will be Central Division vs. Pacific Division at 5 p.m., with the winners to play at 6 p.m.

After coming in a distant second in the skills competition, Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien emphasized what a great time he’s having in Music City for the annual mid-season all-star festival.

“Everyone’s loving it,” Byfuglien said. “We’ve been walking around every day seeing things. My daughter went to the Matilda play (musical) today, the grandmas took her. We’ve been roaming around and the weather’s been so nice.

“They’ve had a great time here.”

The weather has been co-operative for the NHL for this extravaganza. It’s been sunny and temperatures topped 15C Saturday.

Injected into Byfuglien’s post-skills interviews was a serious question about how his media sessions on Friday were perceived. Several national outlets on both sides of the border described him as only “lukewarm” on Winnipeg, where he’s in the final year of his contract and doesn’t yet have an extension.

Asked if that was a good word to describe how he feels, Byfuglien said this late Saturday night: “There’s nothing wrong. I’m happy there. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else, but business is business.”

After the skills, Byfuglien said he was thrilled for Pacific Division captain John Scott, whose selection to the weekend has sparked much discussion.

“Absolutely happy for him,” Byfuglien said. “He’s been enjoying it and he’s got a lot of pressure on him. He’s been handling it good and he’s excited. I’ve actually been talking to him quite a bit and I mean, all he can do is come here and enjoy it.”

Mark Humphrey / The Associated Press
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday in Nashville.

Enjoy it Scott has.

He failed to score on his shootout attempts Saturday, and he fired a best shot of 95.9 miles per hour.

“I could barely hold my stick I was so nervous,” Scott beamed after the event. “I was nervous all night. I didn’t expect that reception. It was a really cool experience.”

Byfuglien recorded shots of 99.6 and 99.4 miles per hour in the hardest-shot competition, winning his head-to-head point against Aaron Ekblad of Florida and setting a personal best for his four all-star appearances.

That event was won by Nashville’s Shea Weber, again, with a best of 108.1 mph.

“I should be harder, but I’ve been struggling with the sticks lately,” Byfuglien said. “Just don’t have the pop anymore.

On Weber’s recent dominance of this event, Byfuglien said: “It’s the stick and he really tries to get into it. That’s a special stick. It really goes good.”

Byfuglien was also placed into Saturday’s fastest skater competition, an odd choice by Western captains Patrick Kane and Scott.

Kane laughed when asked about the pick, pointing to Scott in the locker-room.

“That wasn’t me,” Kane smiled. “That was the big guy over there. He wanted to see him skate. He got out there and got going pretty good.”

Byfuglien thought it was funny, even though he recorded a time of 14.2 seconds in his heat, beaten by about a stick-length by Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang.

“I just laughed,” Byfuglien said. “ I wasn’t expecting that one.

“It’s a tight turn. You need the whole bottom of the ice to get around.”

Among the highlights of the skills night was NHL rookie Dylan Larkin breaking Mike Gartner’s long-standing record for the fastest loop around the rink, with a time of 13.172 seconds.

And P.K. Subban won an entertaining breakaway challenge, whose winner was voted by fans, when he donned a long and grey wig, an old Jofa helmet and imitated Atlantic captain Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers, 43, for two attempts.

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