WASHINGTON (AP) The Dustin Byfuglien at forward experiment might be a short-lived one for the United States.
Byfuglien played on the wing during the Americans’ 3-2 victory over Finland in their final exhibition game Tuesday night and had the lowest ice time of any player. Coach John Tortorella explained the move earlier in the day as a way to see the six other defensemen on the roster.
“We’re still trying to make some decisions on where people fit and in our mind we always felt Buff was kind of a wild card moving into a couple of different positions, so we’ll see,” Tortorella said.
Byfuglien had a big hit on Finland’s Olli Maatta, but skated just 10:32 in a fourth-line role. After splitting his NHL career between forward and defense, the 31-year-old Byfuglien became an All-Star defenseman the past couple of seasons with the Winnipeg Jets and didn’t seem too comfortable going back up front Tuesday.
“It’s definitely not my favorite spot,” Byfuglien said afterward. “It’s just something they wanted to try and that was it.”
Asked about his hit and some other impacts he made, Byfuglien said: “It’s my ice time. I’ve got to do what I got to do, what I’m told to do.”
Byfuglien should be back on the blue line when the U.S. opens the tournament Saturday against Team Europe. Tortorella loves what the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Byfuglien brings with his shot on the power play.
“We’re not putting him in front of the net,” Tortorella said. “We’re going to have him shoot the puck because he can shoot it pretty hard. I hope he’s a weapon.”
Byfuglien is a unique player because of his skating ability for his size, physicality and his shot. U.S. winger Patrick Kane, who won the 2010 Stanley Cup with Byfuglien as a forward on the Chicago Blackhawks, appreciates the Minneapolis native’s versatility.
“He kind of plays that rover style of game, anyway, where he’s all over the ice and in front of the net he’s a big body,” Kane said.
“He’s a special player. He’s one of those guys that’s kind of a rare breed of skill and power and he’s fast for his size. He’s pretty much got everything. He’s very physical, as well. He can do anything out there.”