Dustin Byfuglien is a big problem for Vegas

WINNIPEG Womens Kyle Palmieri Jersey , Manitoba (AP) Dustin Byfuglien is a big problem for Vegas.The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Winnipeg defenseman can do it all, as the Golden Knights saw up close when he helped the Jets win Game 1 of the Western Conference finals with a goal and an assist.”We got moving our feet right away,” Byfuglien said. ”And the ice opened up.”Byfuglien has a powerful shot, as he showed with a slap shot 1:05 into the Jets’ 4-2 victory .The 33-year-old former forward, who played right wing for the Chicago Blackhawks during their Stanley Cup run in 2010, can join a rush on offense in even-strength situations and plays on the power play. The NFL-sized player is nimble enough to skate fluidly and he handles the puck with soft hands. Byfuglien can crunch opponents against the boards or on the open ice with checks and kill penalties with savvy positioning.In Game 1, he did all of that and more.”You saw the Dustin Byfuglien spectrum,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. ”He can shoot the puck a ton. He can make soft-hand plays and he can be as big and strong as you want out there.”Vegas center William Karlsson was asked to compare Byfuglien with any other player in the league. And he was stumped.”He’s kind of one of a kind,” Karlsson said.If the expansion Golden Knights can’t figure out a way to keep the puck away from Byfuglien and work around him offensively, their inaugural season may not last beyond this series.Game 2 is Monday night in Winnipeg.Byfuglien leads the league’s defensemen with 15 points and five multi-point games in the playoffs.”When he is on his game, he is as good as anybody,” Vegas coach Gerrard Gallant. ”He’s a big strong man and can play the game any way you want to play it.”Buf is a good player, but hopefully we don’t give him too many chances to load up like we did (in Game 1) and take that big shot.”The Blackhawks gave Byfuglien a shot to play in the NHL, taking a flyer on the Minnesota native in the eighth round with the No. 245 pick overall in 2003. He played his first full season in the league five years later and had 11 goals and five assists for Chicago during the 2010 playoffs.Byfuglien didn’t get to celebrate the championship for very long because the Blackhawks traded him to less than three weeks after hoisting the Cup. Chicago sent him to the Atlanta Thrashers, who became the Jets, to help manage its salary cap. He has become a three-time All-Star with the franchise and a player respected enough on the blue line to be in the running for the Norris Trophy six times.Byfuglien, though, got off to a slow start offensively this season with a slump that seems improbable for a player with five goals in 13 playoff games this year. He began the season with a 29-game goal drought and finished with eight goals, his fewest in five seasons.”He had a helluva year and it was masked by the fact that he didn’t score a goal for a long time and didn’t generate points,” Maurice said. ”The question was `What’s wrong with Dustin Byfuglien?’ And the answer was, `Absolutely nothing,’ because our hockey team was winning and he was playing right.”Byfuglien has been businesslike around reporters lately, appearing to be focused on his tasks instead of showing off tricks with a cosmetic tooth he can pop in and out of his mouth with his tongue. When a reporter asked about the Atlanta hat he wore in the dressing room before Game 1 Authentic Marcus Johansson Jersey , wondering if it was a nod to his season with the Thrashers, he wasn’t in the mood to play along.”The what?” he asked. ”I don’t even know what hat I got on.”Byfuglien also wasn’t interested in comparing the Jets’ run to his success with the Blackhawks.”That was a while ago,” he said.Discussing the challenges of facing Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury also didn’t interest him.”Get it behind him,” he said. ”Shoot pucks and hopefully they go in.”His first shot against Fleury found the back of the net, and the blast probably pushed the netting to its limit because it was so powerful.”That first goal was a bomb,” Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland said.—Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage— Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara signed a contract that will take him through his 42nd birthday, and he’s already anticipating the next one.”I believe, myself, that I’m going to be playing beyond this contract,” he said on Wednesday after agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay him at least $5 million.”No matter how long you want to continue to play, you have to perform. You have to back up your status,” he said. ”So I know I need to go out there every night and do my job, perform and play hard and work hard and be a great example for my teammates. (The) rest of it, it will fall into place.”A five-time All-Star who was the league’s best defenseman in 2009, Chara turned 41 this month but still leads the Bruins in time on ice with an average of 23 minutes per game. He has seven goals and 16 assists this season, his 20th in the NHL, and is the franchise’s third-leading scorer for a defenseman, behind Hall of Famers Ray Bourque and Bobby Orr.”He’s been a dominant player this year,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. ”He takes all of the hard matchups still, doesn’t shy away from any situations and has embraced the role that he’s kind of emerged into. … He’s indicated that he wants to perform at a high, high level, he expects to perform at a high level, and he’s backed that up.”Chara was in the final year of a seven-year, $45 million contract that reportedly paid him $4 million this year. His new deal guarantees him $5 million but also has incentives that could pay him $1.75 million more.”I will not be surprised if we’re sitting here (again) Michael Grabner Jersey ,” Sweeney said, ”because he’s indicated he wants to continue to play.”Sweeney conceded that Chara had leverage if he went to the free agent market. But the 6-foot-9 Bruins captain said he wanted to stay in Boston and help develop young players such as Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork.”I believe in this team,” Chara said. ”It’s very exciting to be a part of this team. I think this team has a chance, and that’s all you can ask for. The rest of it is up to us to do on the ice. So, yeah, that was my priority, to stay in Boston, to be a Boston Bruin.”Sweeney said Chara’s influence isn’t just on the younger players.”It really is a ripple effect through our whole hockey club,” the GM said. ”Every player realizes the bar is set so high with a player that has accomplished as much as he has, yet he shows up every day. … At times, when we’re trying to get him off the ice, he wants to be on it more. So, I think the example for excellence starts with Zdeno.”Chara played in the Bruins’ first 68 games this season before an unspecified injury that has sidelined him since March 13. Boston has also played without Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, Rick Nash, Torey Krug, McAvoy and DeBrusk this month, but is just one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the best record in the Eastern Conference heading into Thursday night’s matchup.”I’m so proud of the team, and what the guys have been able to do with so many guys being out of the lineup,” Chara said. ”Just a great indication that this team has a never-give-up attitude and willing to fight till the last whistle.”—
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