Hawk Talk: Buff's toughness comes from Grandpa

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Hawk Talk: Buff's toughness comes from Grandpa

Friday, May 28, 2010
2:15 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO It started in Nashville, with an unprompted run of screams, slapshots and self-checks on the boards. Aggressive, hitting, the way his grandfather taught him to play.

Let the wild rumpus begin, indeed.

The Blackhawks were deadlocked 1-1 in their quarterfinals series with the Predators, and Dustin Byfuglien professed that his unprompted attack on an innocent section of boards at the Bridgestone Center, coupled with loud screams that literally stopped the arena cold (and amused his teammates to no end) was him just fooling around.

But soon, Brian Campbell would return to the lineup and Byfuglien was a temporary defenseman no more. And in the process of not only moving back to offense but onto the Blackhawks top line, the 64, 257-pound power forward changed the course of Chicagos season forever.

Byfuglien leads the team with eight goalsall in the last eight games of the playoffsand four game-winners, including three deciding tallies in the recent sweep of the San Jose Sharks.

For his part, the soft-spoken, fifth-year player smiles sheepishly and shakes his head when reminded of his outburst a month ago. Befitting a man whos usually the biggest in the room but would rather be overlooked and left to his own devices, it takes a few tries to get him to talk about that latest transition time in his career.

It was nothing, really, Byfuglien said. I was just having a good time, trying to loosen up the guys. Wed played so solid at home, and this was our first road game in the playoffs.

Big Buff in fact may have done much too good a job readying up his mates for road work. While the Blackhawks would lose Game 3 in Nashville, it was the last road loss of the postseason for Chicago.

Yeah, maybe I did, but thats a good thing, right? Byfuglien says, laughing.

Theres another side to Dr. Buffs motivational techniques, however, and it comes from something ingrained in him from a very young age, from his grandfather, Kenny.

Byfuglien, for those who arent familiar, was raised in rural Roseau, Minn. (just south of the Canadian border) by his mother and grandparents, living in a trailer behind his grandparents house. His mother, Cheryl, worked a blue-collar job to support Dustin, and as a youngster he spent a lot of his free time on local outdoor rinks, playing with his cousins.

Byfuglien was four when he started playing hockey, growing to idolize his cousin Derrick, who seemed like an NHL player to me, as a little kid, Byfuglien said.

But it is Byfugliens grandfather whos made a lasting impression. Buff went so far as to admit that the first call he would make after Chicagos clinching of a Stanley Cup berth on Sunday would be his grandpa, and yesterday at the Stanley Cup media day, he updated the story.

It took me awhile to get through to him, Byfuglien said. He was pretty excited to hear from me, and excited about the game.

Byfuglien had predicted that his game-winning goal to clinch the Blackhawks first Stanley Cup berth in would get his grandpa off the couch, and indeed it did.

He was so excited, Byfuglien says with visible pride, and the closest youll get him to blushing. Hes my biggest fan, and he was hollering for me.

While his grandpa imparted many lessons on long truck drives together, from practical things like his decorum on the ice and how he should treat his coaches, to life lessons and encouragement.

But when it comes to what Grandpa Kenny is most excited to see from Roseaus favorite son, its something decidedly less polite.

What does my grandpa like to see, me score a goal or make a big hit? Byfuglien repeats. Thats easy, no questionhe wants to see me hit.

A goal gets him off the couch, but hes always telling me to be physical. So a big hit, that might get him jumping around the room.

Grandpa Kenny hasnt seen any playoff games so far in 2010, but hes on his way down to watch the Blackhawks host the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 on Saturday. So fans, ushers, bewareif you see an older gentleman looking positively Buff-ish and leaping through the aisles after a big Byfuglien hit, you can call him Kenny.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the latest slump and how much does Artem Anisimov's injury play a role in their struggles?

Konroyd tells us he was surprised by Ryan Hartman's benching in Tampa.

The guys play the game, playoff minutes or press box minutes?  They run through the players who are on the bubble when it comes to postseason play.

They also discuss the Hawks chances of overtaking Washington for the President's trophy.

Plus, Konroyd breaks down possible first round opponents: St Louis, Calgary and Nashville.

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

PITTSBURGH – Tanner Kero's been thrown into a lot of different situations in his time with the Blackhawks, be it third- or fourth-line center or penalty kill.

But with Artem Anisimov out, the second-line center spot has become new top-line, left-wing spot: The Blackhawks will keep trying guys out until they find one that works. Kero's the latest to get that opportunity, and since it worked well on Monday, he'll be there again on Wednesday.

Kero will center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane again when the Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins. The line had a good start to Monday's game against the Lightning in Tampa, scoring the team's first two goals — Kero assisted on Panarin's opener.

Coach Joel Quenneville liked Kero's first go-around there.

"Defensively he's in a good spot — he's usually in a reliable spot in his own end — he made a couple of nice plays offensively and didn't change his game too much," Quenneville said. "It's not easy playing with guys at that next level. It's certainly a great challenge and a great opportunity, so I thought he did a great job, took advantage of it. We'll see how he does going forward but we'll keep him in there for [Wednesday's] game and that gives us some more options."

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Learning on the fly can be part of a rookie season, especially when injuries arise. Jonathan Toews said Kero's handled everything well this season.

"Come to think of it, it's one of those little things that maybe goes over my head but he's definitely one of those versatile players who's as consistent as ever," Toews said. "He has, for his age, an incredible level of maturity and he carries that with him wherever he goes. You're seeing offensive improvement, too. He was making some good plays with Bread Man and Kaner. He's showing he can do it all and I think his work ethic and attitude's a source of that success."

Earlier this season Kero was with guys like Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. They were all familiar with each other from their Rockford days, and that showed. Playing with two guys you don't know so well? It's a bit of a challenge, and one the three talk out. But ultimately, Kero said you have to rely on your instincts. 

"You go over things before the game and on the bench, get a feel for what you might want to do. But then you just have to play hockey," Kero said. "You have to trust your game, make plays. You know they're going to make plays with the puck so you try to use your speed and get open and try to go to the net, create space for them and a little traffic in front and try to capitalize on opportunities."

Anisimov will be out another 1-2 weeks. Asked if Anisimov has started skating back in Chicago yet, Quenneville said, "I don't think so but I'm not positive. But he's progressing." Filling Anisimov's skates isn't easy, as evidenced by the Blackhawks' search for his temporary replacement. Kero is the third guy to get that shot, and he took advantage of his first showing.

"Obviously it's a great opportunity to play with two great players," Kero said. "You just try to do everything you can and do the little things right."

Briefly

- Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith didn't practice on Tuesday but both are expected to play against the Penguins.

- Corey Crawford gets the start against Pittsburgh.

- Hartman, scratched after a rough game against the Florida Panthers, is probably back in against the Penguins.