Byfuglien back to RW vs. Canucks
Byfuglien played a key role in the conference semifinals against the Canucks last season, scoring two goals and an assist as the Blackhawks won in six games. He often set up in front of Vancouver's net and seemed to get under the skin of goaltender Roberto Luongo.
"I think he was a factor in that series, and he was last year in the playoffs up front," coach Joel Quenneville said. "So on a need basis, he was on the blue line [this season], and maybe we've got some options in the course of games of putting him back, but I think up front is where he's going to begin.
"And hopefully he can be a presence at the net and physically doing his thing."
"We'll see as the series goes along. If he's in front, that's totally fine," Luongo said this week after a Canucks practice. "I had two guys in front of me the whole series against [the Los Angeles Kings], so he does his job and I'll do mine to find the puck and make the saves."
During power-play drills Wednesday, Byfuglien took his familiar spot in front of the net.
Byfuglien was unavailable for comment after practice.
The Byfuglien-Luongo battle near the net is just one story line of what has become a top rivalry between two teams who don't like each other much. The teams got into a brawl during the regular season last year, and in one of the fights, Vancouver's Alex Burrows was seen grabbing the hair of Chicago's Duncan Keith. Vancouver's Ryan Kesler called Chicago's Andrew Ladd "a coward" for a hit last year in the playoffs. His comments came after the two fought earlier this season.
Spicing up the series even more was Luongo telling Patrick Kane in the handshake line after backstopping Canada to the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver that he'd see Kane in the playoffs.
And now he'll also see Byfuglien.
"He caused a lot of havoc, and I know he and Luongo got into some pushing matches," Kane said of last year's playoffs. "It's good to have him back in front."
Kane, who had a hat trick against Luongo in Chicago's clinching Game 6 win in last year's playoffs, said the goalie's brief comment in the Olympic reception line wasn't that big of a deal.
"Jokingly, with a smile on his face," Kane recalled. "That is the first time, to be honest with you, I ever really talked to him."
Asked the best way to get into Luongo's head, Kane said:
"Obviously the biggest thing would be to score on him. To be honest with you, every goalie in the league you pretty much got to play the same way. They're going to stop a lot of shots. You got to get traffic and try to get rebounds."
And Luongo is ready for whatever or whomever in his way.
"It's part of every team in every series. That's what they try to do, get traffic in front of the net and try to get the goalie off his game," he said. "That's part of hockey right now, and I've had a lot of it in the first series and I was able to deal with it, so I'm sure it will be the same."
Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com and The Associated Press contributed to this story.