DALLAS, Texas -- For the fourth time in his career, Dustin Byfuglien is heading to the NHL All-Star Game.
“It’s an honour,” Byfuglien said following today’s workout at American Airlines Center. “It’s something as a kid that you dream of.”
The 30-year-old Byfuglien has nine goals and 23 points through 40 games this season. He’s participated in the 2011, 2012, and 2015 NHL All-Star Games, and says one of the best parts is meeting other players off the ice.
“It’s fun and exciting. You get to meet the other guys that you play against and battle with every time,” said Byfuglien. “It’s fun to see them off the ice and get to know them other ways, get to meet their families, and just have a good time and enjoy everything.”
Coach Paul Maurice is happy for Byfuglien, who the Jets coach routinely puts out against tough opponents each night.
“You just don’t see guys that can do what he can do. The number of times that he transitions from back to forward, tips a puck, gets to speed, then down the wall strong and holds people off,” said Maurice. “There are just very few, and I don’t know how many guys there have been that play the game the way he plays. He’s a smart hockey player.”
This year’s All-Star Game in Nashville, TN will have a different format than previous years. Teams comprised of six forwards, three defencemen, and two goaltenders from each of the four divisions (Central, Pacific, Metropolitan, and Atlantic) will compete in a three-game tournament over the Jan. 30-31 weekend.
Those limits on position mean Byfuglien was one of three Central Division defencemen chosen.
“That’s quite a compliment in the Central Division. Such a group of fine defencemen to choose from,” said Maurice. “And the forwards too. Blake Wheeler is having a career year and doesn’t get picked. It’s not a competition between the two men on our team, it’s a positional thing. But Blake will get some rest, and that will be good for him too.”
Wheeler, who sits seventh in the NHL in scoring with 40 points in 40 games, says he knows exactly how he’ll spend those days.
“I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised, but I have no problem taking that time and spending it with my family.
“Buff has been a big part of what we do. We don’t make the playoffs last year without him. He’s been an integral part of what we’ve been doing since day one here. Well deserved for him. I know he’ll enjoy the experience. He’s definitely grown as a player in the last few years. He’s a big part of what we do.”
Adding to the new All-Star Game format is that each game will be three-on-three, similar to the overtime format introduced this season.
“It’s almost hockey at its purest form in some ways. It’s the pond hockey game,” Maurice said. “You decided how many guys were going to play by how many guys showed up to the outdoor rink. If six guys showed up, you were playing 3-on-3. It’ll be exciting.”