Hawk Talk: Shufflin' Byfuglien

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Hawk Talk: Shufflin' Byfuglien

Monday, June 7, 2010
11:05 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO The biggest man on the Chicago Blackhawks was in danger of completely disappearing from the Stanley Cup Finals.

Dustin Byfuglien was largely a non-factor through the first four games (one assist, six shots, minus-3) and having a forgettable Game 4 that found him nibbling at the bait left him by the likes of Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger and helping to bury the Blackhawks with bad penalties.

But thanks to a lineup shuffle by coach Joel QuennevilleByfuglien dropped from the top line to a third grouping flanked by Dave Bolland and Kris Versteegand determined, steely play, the fifth-year man exploded with only the fourth Blackhawks game of two goals and two assists in the teams last 20 postseasons.

Several Blackhawks marveled not only at Byfugliens scoring outburst and NHL playoffs-high fifth game-winning goal, but his game-high nine hits. Center Dave Bolland admitted that the entire Blackhawks bench was up and cheering on one of Big Buffs hits on Pronger, invigorating the team.

Byfuglien gets the team going with how physical he can be, he said. Everyone on our bench was up and cheering after he tagged Pronger.

Pronger, who had managed to neutralize Chicagos previous top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Byfuglien in the Philadelphia leg of the Finals, not only had his worst game of the series and worst postseason game ever, but his minus-five rating (as well as being on the ice for six of Chicagos goals, including a power-play goal by Byfuglien during which the burly forward was camped at the Flyers crease, presumably wagging his tongue at the giant in the box) was the worst of the defensemans entire career. (In has been 15 years since a minus-five was laid down in a SCF gameBob Errey for the 1995 Detroit Red Wings).

But dont expect Byfuglien to gloat too much over trumping a player in Pronger who was drafted into the NHL when the gentle giant from Minnesota was just eight years old

Hes out there to battle, Byfuglien said of Pronger, while acknowledging he didnt think his nemesis had won any big battles in the series. So am I. Im going to try to get the best of him and be strong. Thats all I have to do.

Simple statements, perhaps. But theres little doubt that Byfugliens teammates consider him half-man, half-amazingwith a whole lotta happiness sprinkled in.

Hes always a happy guy, always in a good mood, Blackhawks alternacap John Madden said. But on the ice, he enforces the law on people.

Hes kind of a bubbly guywin or lose, hes fun to be around, companion Chicago alternacap Duncan Keith said. But sometimes he just wants to go, and nothings going to stop him.

Kane, who added an assist to his goal, had a different, more humorous read on Byfuglien going ham in Game 5: He got rid of me and Toews and thats all he needed.

For his part, Byfuglien mostly shrugged off how much more effective he was in Game 5.

I dont know if I really got off my game, he said. I just wasnt getting the bounces and the things that make me happy. I knew I had to come in, work hard and do the best I can to help the team.

Humble to the core, the power forward was direct and succinct in diagnosing how the Blackhawks got back on track.

Getting down there two games in their building, we had to come back with some fire, get on them and show them we werent going to quit, Byfuglien said. Right from the get-go, we just moved our feet and stayed physical.

As for Pronger, he mostly avoided talk of Byfuglien postgame, but did allow for a typically sarcastic crack in response to Big Buffs breakout game: I guess hes been well-rested.

Funny, though, that one of the benefits the Flyers immediately seized on regarding the relative rarity of the two off-days before Game 6 was that it would allow the 66 defenseman an extra day of recovery from his heavy minutes loads.

You can imagine Byfuglien letting Grandpa Pronger know just that on Wednesday, crowing from his campground somewhere in front of the Philadelphia crease.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Marcus Kruger activated off IR ahead of Blackhawks-Lightning

Marcus Kruger activated off IR ahead of Blackhawks-Lightning

Dennis Rasmussen or Marcus Kruger could play Tuesday night and Corey Crawford will start when the Blackhawks host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Rasmussen did not skate Tuesday morning due to illness but coach Joel Quenneville said the center could still play vs. the Lightning. Quenneville said Kruger is "close" to playing — he was activated off injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon — and his status could depend on how Rasmussen feels.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks, sitting in second place in the Western Conference, are on a three-game winning streak entering Tuesday's game. The Lightning, the Blackhawks' 2015 Stanley Cup opponent, has struggled with injuries (Steven Stamkos has been out since November) and is last in the Eastern Conference. Despite the Lightning's struggles, Quenneville isn't taking the team lightly.

"Obviously they've had some health issues, significant guys missing big stretches of their year, but they still have guys out there that are skilled and it's an extremely dangerous team and a very competitive East side," Quenneville said. "I'm sure they'll be ready for tonight."

Andrei Vasilevskiy will start Tuesday night for the Lightning. Coach Jon Cooper said J.T. Brown and Jason Garrison are game-time decisions.

BLACKHAWKS VS. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

7:30 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com or NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks

Forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Vinnie Hinostroza-Tanner Kero-Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Nick Schmaltz

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Marcus Kruger (right arm), Dennis Rasmussen (ill).

Tampa Bay Lightning (projected; some are game-time decisions)

Forward lines

Ondrej Palat-Vladislav Namestnikov-Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn-Tyler Johnson-J.T. Brown
Bryan Boyle-Valtteri Filppula-Jonathan Drouin
Michael Bournival-Cedric Paquette-Gabriel Dumont

Defensive Pairs

Victor Hedman-Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison-Andrej Sustr
Braydon Coburn-Nikita Nesterov

Goaltender

Andrei Vasilvskiy

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Steven Stamkos (knee), Brayden Point (upper body), Ryan Callahan (lower body), Jason Garrison (illness).

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

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