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Jets D Dustin Byfuglien expected to play forward Saturday

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Dustin Byfuglien is moving up to forward this weekend. (USATSI)
Dustin Byfuglien is moving up to forward this weekend. (USATSI)

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The Winnipeg Jets are desperate. So desperate that they're willing to take arguably their best defenseman and put him on the top forward group for Saturday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Byfuglien is expected to replace Blake Wheeler on the right wing, joining Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd on Winnipeg's top forward unit.

Byfuglien has been averaging more than 26 minutes a night and has posted 34 points, trailing only Erik Karlsson and Duncan Keith among defensemen in scoring.

Byfuglien is no stranger to playing up front, though. The 28-year-old primarily played forward for the Chicago Blackhawks, including during the team's run to the Stanley Cup in 2010. He also made a few appearances as a forward last season.

Though Byfuglien has been moved up, no one seems to be quite sure how he feels about it, according to the Winnipeg Sun:

Last year's experiment didn't last long, as Byfuglien made it clear he didn't want to leave the blue line.

It's not clear how he feels about it this time, as he refused to address the media, Friday.

"I don't know," Noel said, of where Byfuglien's head is at. "We'll see. It's all in your actions. You can say all the right things. We need to see what the actions bring us. That's what I'll be watching."

Well that could be a tad awkward.

The team is likely to be missing Evander Kane from the lineup, as he is still dealing with a hand injury and probably need the help up front. That said, Byfuglien has turned himself into one of the most productive defensemen in the league over the past few years. His scoring from the back end has value, obviously.

Meanwhile, Wheeler, who made the US Olympic Team last week and was the league's hottest goal scorer in the month of December, practiced with the team's third line Friday.

Noel may just be trying to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks as the Jets continue to flounder. The head coach has to be on the hot seat with the team mired in last place in the Central Division with no sign of a turnaround forthcoming.

The San Jose Sharks moved Brent Burns to forward rather effectively last season and he has remained there this year, but Byfuglien may be less receptive to such a move.

The fact that Byfuglien may not even feel comfortable with the change makes the move even more curious, but the Jets need to do something different and I guess you won't know if it will work until you try it.

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