Byfuglien battling back for all-star game

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien fires a shot on net prior to playing the Montreal...

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien fires a shot on net prior to playing the Montreal Canadiens in NHL hockey in Winnipeg Thursday, December 22, 2011. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI AGENCY)

Kirk Penton, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:06 AM ET

WINNIPEG - If there’s a silver lining to Dustin Byfuglien’s knee injury, it’s that he has been able to watch the first few weeks of his newborn daughter’s life very closely.

The Winnipeg Jets would no doubt love to have their big defenceman back on the blue-line, but Byfuglien has been enjoying fatherhood after his girlfriend gave birth to Kira Rae on Dec. 28.

“So far it’s been all right,” said Byfuglien, who has missed eight games and will sit out Saturday’s home clash against the New Jersey Devils. “I haven’t been playing or anything, so I’m just hanging out at home and watching her sleep.”

And what about changing diapers?

“Oh yeah,” Byfuglien said with a chuckle. “I’ve had to do that.”

Byfuglien on Thursday was named Winnipeg’s lone representative in the NHL all-star game, which will be held on Jan. 29 in Ottawa. The only question now is whether his knee will allow him to suit up in the annual talent showcase.

“I hope so,” he said in a rare meeting with the media. “Rehab’s going well right now, and I’ll just hopefully get on the ice here in the next week. I guess we kind of hit a spot where we don’t really know what’s going on right now. It’s just a matter of a couple days here, just get on a good streak and feel better and hopefully start skating.

“I’m just not feeling the best on it. I want to be 100% with it. It’s something I don’t want to have nagging me later in the year.”

No kidding. The Jets haven’t been the same team without Byfuglien back on the blue-line. He brings a physical presence that was desperately lacking in Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks, and his ability to get shots on goal is especially missing from the team’s power play.

Forget goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Considering the Jets have yet to register a regulation win in 2012, maybe Byfuglien, who has 24 points in 35 games, is the most valuable member of the squad. If you see him on the street, though, don’t bring that up. The soft-spoken and private Minnesota product likes to leave work at the office.

“Outside the rink everyone wants to talk hockey with you,” he said of the transition from Atlanta to Winnipeg. “It’s not the first thing I want to do, is talk hockey. I’d like to talk about other things. But once you get to the rink and you’re in front of a sold-out crowd there’s nothing better than putting on a show for the fans.”

And if he can play later this month it will be the 26-year-old’s second straight all-star appearance. He called being picked to play a “privilege.” As for the draft format used to pick the teams, Byfuglien is a fan.

“I don’t mind it. A defenceman can never get picked last — at least last year you couldn’t,” he said with a laugh. “It’s not a bad thing. It’s fun. I think most of the guys enjoy it.”


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