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Hawks coy, quiet about Byfuglien's role in Game 2

by Brian Hedger /
CHICAGO -- The gamesmanship of playoff hockey is in full swing at the United Center, and once again the focus is directed squarely on the massive shoulders of 6-foot-4, 257-pound Dustin Byfuglien.
Labeling Byfuglien as either a forward or a defenseman seems futile considering his recent history of playing both positions and what was reported by a local radio station Monday morning. According to a report by WMVP-AM 1000, which cited an anonymous Blackhawks source, forward Adam Burish will dress and Byfuglien will again move back to the blue line for tonight's Game 2 matchup with Vancouver in the Western Conference Semifinals (9 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RIS).
Byfuglien, Burish and Hawks coach Joel Quenneville each were asked about the potential switch after Chicago's morning skate, and all gave varying answers.
"As of right now I'm still up front," said Byfuglien, who has a history of frustrating Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo by camping in front of the net and scrambling for rebounds. "Nothing's changed there. All I've got to do is just sort of stand there and do my job ... get in his face and make it hard for him to find pucks."
Burish, who was a healthy scratch for Game 1, played coy with his answer.
"I do know, but I'm not going to share it right now," he said. "It's not about me. It's not about anyone else. It's about this group. When it's my turn I know what I can bring."
Quenneville also wasn't in the mood to give anything away.
"We'll see," he said when asked about the makeup of his lines. "We could make some changes."
One thing's for sure -- some kind of presence in front of Luongo is a main emphasis for the Hawks in a game they are labeling a "must-win."
Even if Byfuglien moves back to defense -- where he filled in for a month while Brian Campbell was out -- he still could find himself in front of the net on power plays. Quenneville said putting bodies in front of Luongo is the best way to beat him.
"The second opportunities and making him fight through the screens and traffic generates higher-quality scoring chances," he said. "It's something we've got to do. We've got to improve in that area. We got enough pucks at him, but I think we need more traffic."
Byfuglien said the job isn't quite the same as it was last season, when he was able to get into Luongo's head while the Hawks eliminated Vancouver in the conference semifinals. Byfuglien was asked if officials are calling it tighter in front of the net now because of media stories about he and Luongo.
"I definitely think so," he said. "Even in other series they've called a few guys for just standing there and somebody bumps them into their goalie. (Goalies) are actually coming out of their crease. I'm on top of the crease, but they're coming out trying to challenge and they're running into me and I've been called a couple of times. I think it's a little stupid that they're calling it so strict now that it's playoffs and (they) let it go so far through the year."
Later, he backtracked a little when asked if goalies are trying to draw interference calls by coming out of the crease more often.
"I don't think so," Byfuglien said. "The refs have been pretty fair so far with me. (Goalies) can come out and do their thing. If you hit them you're going to get called either way."

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