What’s old is new again for the Jets.
That’s the story as Winnipeg prepares to take on the Canadiens tonight in Montreal, where head coach Claude Noel will skate Dustin Byfuglien as a forward.
“He’s a hard guy to move in front of the net,” Noel told TSN. “He’s a big man. He makes the goalie work, that’s for certain. Those are areas we’d like him to occupy.”
Byfuglien, 28, broke into the NHL as a defenseman with the Blackhawks, only to transition into an effective power forward during his time in Chicago.
At no time was he more dynamic than during the 2010 Stanley Cup run, tying for the team lead with 11 goals, five coming on the power play.
Byfuglien moved back to defense upon being traded to Atlanta and has played the position exclusively over the last few seasons. (He made the 2011 NHL All-Star game as a blueliner).
But, during Tuesday’s lacklustre 5-2 loss to the Islanders, Noel shook things up by moving Byfuglien up front during the third period to skate with Brian Little and Jets captain Andrew Ladd.
Noel liked what he saw, so he’s sticking with it for Thursday, noting that the move isn’t just about Big Buff standing in front of the net.
“He’s equally as good in the corner when he has the puck,” Noel explained. “He protects it well and is a hard guy to control in the corner. He can do some things.
“He’s got a fairly high skill level as well, so he can give us some dimensions in different areas.”