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Jets Move Forward With Byfuglien

By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck

It may not be ideal but Dustin Byfuglien, reluctant or not, will make the jump from defenceman to forward on Saturday night when the Winnipeg Jets welcome the Columbus Blue Jackets to town.

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (33) celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in NHL action at the MTS Centre, Jan. 7, 2014. SHAWN COATES PHOTO

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (33) celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in NHL action at the MTS Centre, Jan. 7, 2014. SHAWN COATES PHOTO

The move, an apparent sign that Jets coach Claude Noel is running gravely-thin on ideas to help this team, was met with mixed emotions from the now-former star defenceman.

“It is what it is,” Byfuglien said. “It’s not ideal to what I want to be doing but whatever I can do to help this team right now I’ll do it.”

Byfuglien has played a total of 22 games and change in the NHL on the front lines, most of those coming in the 2010 Stanley Cup run with his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks. It will be the first time the Minnesota native has played forward since an experiment gone wrong last season in Montreal.

It is needless to say, then, that expectations aren’t through the roof just yet for the guy who scored 11 goals while playing up front for the Blackhawks.

“He’s had a couple of days of practice with his line mates,” said Noel after the morning skate. “It is a lot different playing forward and defence, we have to be patient in our assessment with things. When you are a defenceman, the whole game is in front of you and you are watching the whole game. When you are up front and in the middle, it is a whole different game.

“I think he can be an effective player for us but I think he has adjusted to it. You are going to have to get into the game and start playing.”

Jets head coach Claude Noel. SHAWN COATES PHOTO

Jets head coach Claude Noel. SHAWN COATES PHOTO

Noel, who is under pressure to get a win — the Jets are winless in their last four contests and arguable lost their worst game of the season last Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning — says the move is calculated.

“I just don’t throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks,” he said. “I am trying to calculate this things to see what works the best. I don’t think you ever go into a situation when you’re coaching and not think things out.

The move is not without risk, however, according to Noel.

“There is always risk, you don’t know if it is going to be the solution or not,” said Noel. “You try and see how it goes and you just got to pay attention to what is going on.”

Meanwhile, Byfuglien was his usual, unenthusiastic self in front of the media on Saturday morning.

“It is something that I just have to go out and do,” he said. “I am just here to work, that is all I can come and do, come here and do my job.”

Evander Kane.

Evander Kane.

Scott’s Scribbles: Evander Kane skated briefly this morning, testing out his injured hand. Claude Noel said he won’t be a player in tonight’s game…Zach Redmond was called up on Friday from St. John’s.

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