If his strong play at left wing keeps up, the Chicago Blackhawks are going to have a hard time moving forward Dustin Byfuglien back to defense.
Then again, before he undertook great strides in his conditioning this season, it was hard to move Byfuglien, 22, anywhere.
In recent seasons, he's reduced his weight from 275 pounds into the 245-pound range and he still has a way to go.
Byfuglien (pronounced "Bufflin") has 13 goals and 14 assists in 51 games with the Blackhawks this season. At the start of the season, he was seen as one of several promising young defensemen in the Chicago lineup, along with Brent Seabrook, 22; Duncan Keith, 24; Cam Barker, 21; Jordan Hendry, 22; and James Wisniewski, 22. And, he didn't rank too highly in that group, off his previous stints with the Blackhawks in 2006, when he played 25 games, and last season when he appeared in only nine NHL games.
The Blackhawks were well aware Byfuglien was behind the development curve when they used their eighth-round pick, 245th overall, in the 2003 Entry Draft to bring him into the fold.
Byfuglien grew up in the Minnesota hockey hotbed town of Roseau, but unlike his uncles and Roseau's famous Broten brothers, he didn't play for his high-school team and his youth-hockey experiences were intermittent. There were a variety of reasons, ranging from family finances to his inability to focus on schoolwork. The latter rendered him ineligible for the Rams' interscholastic sports.
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