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Byfuglien making it a point to irritate Luongo
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

The Blackhawks' Dustin Byfuglien crashes into Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo during the second period of Game 2 on Saturday.

 

Associated Press file

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Published: 5/5/2009 12:14 AM

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Tonight's faceoff

Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks at the United Center, 7 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WGN 720-AM

At a glance: With the Western Conference semifinal series tied at 1-1, it's the Hawks who have wrestled home-ice advantage away from the Canucks. Take away Vancouver's 4 power-play goals and the Hawks have outscored the Canucks 6-3 at even strength with a short-handed goal. The Hawks are 3-0 at the United Center in the playoffs.

Next: Game 4 vs. the Canucks, 7 p.m. Thursday.

This is the Dustin Byfuglien the Blackhawks and their fans have been waiting all year to see - a 6-foot-3, 247-pound runaway train-type winger causing havoc for the opposition.

After a mostly inconsistent regular season, Byfuglien has been a difference maker so far in the playoffs, first in the Calgary series and now against Vancouver in the deadlocked Western Conference semifinals that comes to the United Center tonight for Game 3.

Byfuglien was a pain in the neck for Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo in Game 2 and doesn't plan to stop.

"Someone's got to play that role and as a big guy I feel like I had to step in and play physical and get some bodies and traffic in front of Luongo," Byfuglien said Monday.

"The team just needed someone to be a physical force all the time. There were a couple talks and I figured I might as well try it and it's gone all right so far."

Byfuglien drew some laughs when asked by a reporter covering the Canucks when it was he decided to step up his physical game.

"I don't know, last week," he said.

Those who laughed obviously didn't realize the honesty of the answer.

"I don't know if I didn't do it consistently (during the regular season)," Byfuglien said. "I probably just wasn't getting as many chances in a game."

If this is a feud that has developed between Byfuglien and Luongo, that's cool, said Byfuglien.

They have spent two games jawing with each other, most of it innocent stuff. Luongo even gave Byfuglien a pat on the rear end with his stick after he said Byfuglien referred to him as "kid" in Game 1.

"Kid, son, I don't know," Byfuglien said. "He's doing what he has to do. It just makes everything more fun. Someone had to do it and I thought I'd just get in front of him and start talking.

"I tried saying a few things (to Flames goalie Miikka) Kiprusoff, but he just kind of stayed back in his net and kind of stared at me like, 'What are you talking about?' At least Luongo, he'll talk back and have fun with it."

Luongo wasn't having fun with it in Game 2 when he claimed Byfuglien fell on his outstretched arm on purpose and tried to break it.

"I don't think I put him in an arm bar, but if that's the way he calls it, that's the way he calls it," Byfuglien said. "I'm not going to go out there and try to throw any wrestling moves on anybody."

Luongo didn't want to discuss Byfuglien at any great length after practice Monday.

"He's a big guy and he likes to screen me, but that's great," Luongo said. "That's part of the challenge and it's challenges like that I like to embrace. It kind of brings more to the playoff atmosphere and makes it exciting.

"I haven't done much talking at all, just more looking. But he likes it and I don't mind it at all. It gets me going and more focused."

There's no doubt there has been much prodding from Joel Quenneville for Byfuglien to be more of a physical factor, and the Hawks coach likes what he has seen.

"I thought he really had a nice trend at the end of the year," Quenneville said. "I think the last 10 games he was way more involved; he was more dangerous with the puck, he was more physical and was a presence. I think he has progressed in the playoffs and been a big factor.

"The thing about Buff is you've got to respect him not only for his size, but he's got a great shot and has some nice hands as well and has been going to the right areas. He really helps our overall team game. They know when he's out there."