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Byfuglien has turned into difference-maker
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo tries to clear Chicago Blackhawks' Dustin Byfuglien from in front of the net during the second period of Game 5 Saturday.


Associated Press

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Published: 5/11/2009 11:09 PM

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If there were such a thing as a Stanley Cup playoff handbook for how to succeed through the postseason, the Blackhawks would have rule No. 1 nailed.

Let Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault explain.

"This time of year teams that have success are the teams that have players take it to the next level," Vigneault said. "We don't have enough guys that have done that."

The Hawks have candidates up and down the roster who have raised their game in the playoffs starting with Dustin Byfuglien, who has elevated his play from mostly ordinary during the regular season to playoff difference-maker.

"He's kind of gotten into his role, so to speak," teammate Brian Campbell said. "At times he lost his role at different times during the season. Right now he's in his role, he's skating well and he's relishing it."

Byfuglien's role is defined quite simply - to use his 6-foot-3, 247-pound body to be a power player along the wall and in front of the net.

Byfuglien referred to "talks" he had before the playoffs, presumably with coach Joel Quenneville, about being the kind of physical presence the Hawks needed.

Quenneville, as is his custom, downplayed his role for pushing the right buttons, instead crediting Byfuglien for seizing the moment.

"I think Buff's game has really taken off," Quenneville said. "He's more effective when he's physically engaged, and he's tough to play against. That's really helped take his game to the next level."

Byfuglien had 3 goals and 3 assists in 11 playoff games going into Game 6 on Monday after finishing the regular season with 15 goals and 31 points.

"I think as the season progressed he started to place an emphasis on what he means to our hockey team and the importance of what he can bring," Quenneville said. "I think towards the end of the year he got - I'm not saying the message - but I think he felt his game got more comfortable in certain situations with the puck and more forceful physically.

"I think he has progressed even off the great finish he had and he's still improving off those levels."

Feels so good: Maybe no other Hawk has been hit harder in the series by the Canucks than Brian Cempbell.

"They're going to hit anybody. It's playoff hockey and it's part of the business," Campbell said. "We try to do it to them. You have to finish your checks in the playoffs. It's fun."

It doesn't look fun to be getting creamed.

"It probably would be easier if we just played a little shinny out there, but everybody hits in the playoffs, it doesn't matter who you are," Campbell said. "I'm just trying to skate with the puck and move it up to our forwards as quick as possible. If they hit me, they hit me. If I duck and dive a couple, I get out of the way. It's a good challenge."

Who's counting? Jonathan Toews continued to block out the nine-game goal drought he took into Game 6.

"You just keep that positive mindset and keep thinking you're going to cash in at the right time," Toews said.