scored a goal in his first NHL All-Star Game and was clearly enjoying himself since he hardly even got off the ice. In his first period of All-Star action he logged 8:09- the most of any player- and wound up being on the ice for a game-high 22:18, averaging 1:35 per shift. When it was pointed out to him after the game that he led every player in ice time, averaged over a minute and a half per shift, and was still -3 the big defenseman laughed.
"I guess some things just don't change. I definitely had some long ones out there where I got caught up. I got some grief between periods about it. I started laughing and was huffing and puffing when I came in. It was all good."
On being -2 five minutes into the game Byfuglien tried to pin it on his defense partner, Duncan Keith, who he was teammates with in Chicago.
"My D partner definitely wasn't very good out there. We definitely got on the minus boat right away."
But Byfuglien also credited Keith with helping spark the biggest comeback in All-Star Game history as Team Lidstrom bounced back from a 4-0 hole and won 11-10, thanks in part to a goal by Buff himself who scored his team's second of the night as they battled back to make it 4-4 by the end of the first ( watch the goal
"My partner today and I got a minus two right away and he said "Alright, I'm not going to end up stuck with this. We're going to pick our game up and go get it.'. We ended up winning it as a team."
Byfuglien's goal came on a nice feed from Blackhawk Patrick Kane who saw him pinching in and slid a pass through the crease. Nobody wants to be held pointless in a high-scoring All-Star Game and the Thrashers defenseman admitted that getting a goal out of the way made the rest of the game more enjoyable for him.
"Yeah, I definitely loosened up a little bit and it made things a lot easier out there."
Byfuglien also admitted that it was hard to keep track of the puck at times given that every pass was, fittingly, All-Star caliber.
"The puck moved around pretty quick out there. Most of the time it was on the tape. You're turning around and trying to follow the puck and you got a little dizzy out there. It was a lot of fun though and I think everyone enjoyed it."
As usual the game involved very little contact and nobody was credited with a hit, even though Byfuglien had joked with the media that he might throw one. In the end he thought better of it, and for good reason.
"I thought about it, but there are too many guys that are too shifty. If you hit them they'll come back and dangle on you and make you look bad. I just used my stick out there."
When it was all said and done
Byfuglien represented the Thrashers well, picking up points for his team in the skills competition and scoring in the big game, and he said he wouldn't make any changes to the new format.
"The guys get to have fun with it. The guys will work harder each year to get to be a captain. Hopefully I can do it again. Obviously we had two good captains and the alternates did a great job. Everyone did a good job picking the teams."
"I think a lot of people enjoyed it a lot more," he added. "It makes guys nervous out there not wanting to be picked last. It went smoothly though. It was fun."
There was some criticism from the media and NHL executives like Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke that the end of the draft ought to be reformatted to spare a player the embarrassment of being picked last, but Byfuglien disagreed, saying everyone is making too big of a deal out of it.
"It doesn't matter. Everyone is going to get ice time and get played. There are a lot of guys who weren't here that would have liked to be in that position. Winning a car is never a bad thing either, right?"
"I think it's alright to be picked last," he said. "But I'm still glad it wasn't me."
When it came down to it there was only one thing Byfuglien said he would have changed about the weekend- he would have had his defense partner Toby Enstrom with him. Enstrom was selected as an All-Star but had to withdraw due to a fractured finger.
"It would have been great (to have him in Raleigh). I was texting him between periods to check in on him and seeing what he was doing. We were sending jokes back and forth. I definitely would have liked having him here. If we had been on the same team it would have been fun."
Byfuglien doesn't think this was their only opportunity to be in an All-Star Game together though.
"He couldn't come but hopefully we can pick it up next year."
If both Byfuglien and Enstrom can maintain their All-Star caliber play for years to come (and there's no reason to think they can't) Thrashers fans should have a lot to look forward to, including a possible playoff drive this spring.
With the All-Star Game in the books the Thrashers return to action at Philips Arena on Tuesday against the New York Islanders followed by another home game on Thursday against the Calgary Flames.
For more form Dustin Byfuglien watch his post-game interview: