Dustin Byfuglien might be a defenseman for Atlanta this season

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dustinbyfuglien1.jpgWhen the Atlanta Thrashers acquired Dustin Byfuglien from the Chicago Blackhawks to help bail the Blackhawks out of salary cap hell beef up their forward unit, it was viewed as a savvy move from Thrashers GM Rick Dudley. After all, a young team looking to rebuild sort of from the ground up after trading away Ilya Kovalchuk, getting a physical force to work the front of the net can help set the tone of games. It sure worked for the Blackhawks propelling them to win the Stanley Cup.

In what might turn out to be one of the most surprising moves of the off-season, it turns out that Dustin Byfuglien might turn out to be less of a power forward and more of an offensive defenseman, a move that GM Rick Dudley is more than ready to make as Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution finds out in a Q&A session with Dudley.

Q. It appears the defense is close to being set with several players, like Arturs Kulda, competing for final spot. Would that be a fair statement?

A. I think Kulda has a chance to challenge for regular duty – as do some other people. A lot of it depends on what we do with Dustin [Byfuglien]. If we decide to play him at defense, it’s a much more difficult defense to make. If we decide to play him at forward, there is some room. A lot of that will depend on the people. If we have a guy that looks pretty good – like I look at [Alexey] Zubarev, he’s a pretty talented guy; same thing with Kulda and Freddy Meyers is a guy that’s proven can play in the NHL. All those guys have a chance to play regularly. They just have to show it. If we made a decision that we didn’t need to play Byfuglien at defense, that would be a reason why.

Q. So you are saying that it’s a real possibility that Byfuglien will switch to defense?

A. It’s a position that he likes to play. It’s a position that I thought he was well on his way to being a top, top defenseman in Chicago. We moved him to forward because we had no size up front. Obviously, he proved to be a very effective forward but that doesn’t mean he’s not an effective defenseman. Ultimately, if [coach] Craig [Ramsay] says he doesn’t want to play him at defense, it’s unlikely he’ll play on defense. Truthfully, I want to see [him switch]. He can score. He can score 15 goals as a defenseman. He’s got one of the hardest shots in the game.

If you’re thinking this is a crazy thing for the Thrashers to be doing… It might be, but not for the reasons you’re thinking. Byfuglien came up through the Chicago system as a defenseman. I even witnessed such a game myself while he was a member of the Norfolk Admirals. He even played a handful of games as a defenseman for the Blackhawks last season.

While most will know Byfuglien for his net presence and ability to score up front, he does indeed have a big shot. At his size (6’4′ 250 pounds) he’d make for a menacing defenseman but is that where his skills are best suited? Considering his goal totals as a forward the last three seasons for the Blackhawks have been 19,15 and 17 is getting that sort of production from the blueline is a lot more difficult.

Moving Byfuglien to defense also tweaks the Thrashers forward depth and puts the pressure on their youth to step it up in training camp. Kids like 2010 first round pick Alexander Burmistrov or Angelo Esposito could have a big opportunity to make the NHL roster for the first time. To say the least, things are going to be exciting in Atlanta one way or the other.

Video: Pekka Rinne’s zero-margin-of-error stick save

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Sometimes, the Nashville Predators were unlucky in November. Sometimes they were just bad.

Either way, they’re likely glad to step into December, and they’ve already gotten a big bounce. Watch how close this near-goal was into crossing the red line before Pekka Rinne barely stopped it with a well-placed goalie stick.

You can also see it up close via this GIF:

Here’s the NHL Situation Room Blog explanation for it remaining a no-goal:

At 13:06 of the first period in the Coyotes/Predators game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play from 11:57. Video review confirmed the call on the ice that the puck did not cross the Nashville goal line. No goal Coyotes.

Alexei Emelin was ejected for this hit on Matt Calvert

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Alexei Emelin has been in and out of the Montreal Canadiens lineup, but this wasn’t the way they wanted him to keep his legs fresh.

The hard-hitting defenseman received a game misconduct and five-minute major penalty for a late hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert on Tuesday.

So far, it sounds like Calvert may be OK.

You can see video of that hit above, as well as a GIF of the infraction via My Regular Face.

Many believe that Emelin should not have been ejected.

Injuries continue to dog Lupul as Leafs place him on IR

Joffrey Lupul
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Injuries have been a regular problem for Joffrey Lupul for much of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing in 2015-16.

The team placed him on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 28, calling up Rich Clune in the process.

This IR stint means that Lupul will miss at least three games for Toronto.

From the sound of things, it’s a nagging issue, as NHL.com notes.

“He’s been having the same problem here for a bit,” Mike Babcock told media members on Sunday. “He doesn’t seem to be getting the power back that they thought, so we’re just trying to monitor it the best we can.”

Leafs Nation points out that Lupul has missed about one-third of Toronto’s contests since suffering a separated shoulder in April 2012.

At 32, there’s still time for Lupul to fight through this, although injuries generally accumulate with age.

WATCH LIVE: Wild at Blackhawks; Penguins at Sharks

Scott Darling, Charlie Coyle
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Will Ryan Suter say something foolish during tonight’s game? Is Brent Burns‘ beard so long that it’s finally starting to scrape the ice?

We’ll find out the answer to those questions and more during Tuesday’s NBCSN doubleheader.

Need to follow the two games online? Never fear.

Game 1: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks


Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins at San Jose Sharks