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THN.com Blog: Byfuglien on the blueline, Lecavalier’s potential and sorting out the Central

Dustin Byfuglien was acquired by the Atlanta Thrashers in a seven-player deal with Chicago in June. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Dustin Byfuglien was acquired by the Atlanta Thrashers in a seven-player deal with Chicago in June. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Some quick hits before the hits start for real shortly.

• I, like most, assumed Dustin Byfuglien would hold a forward post with the Atlanta Thrashers, but he’s moving back to defense, the position he’s apparently most comfortable at.

The most immediate images people have of ‘Big Buff’ involve him rattling Roberto Luongo or hammering Chris Pronger in the corner as part of his power forward role. That’s a wonderful element to have on the attack, but don’t forget, Byfuglien’s worth as a forward is blown a bit out of proportion because he’s had monster performances with the playoff glare squarely on his team.

He’s never scored more than 19 goals in the regular season, but Atlanta GM Rick Dudley believes he can score 15 from the back end due to his hard shot. That might be an optimistic appraisal and I wonder a bit about Byfuglien’s foot speed as a D-man, but don’t automatically discount moving its prized off-season acquisition to defense as a backward step in Atlanta. If Byfuglien can play top-four minutes at 6-foot-4 and a bruising 257 pounds, while demonstrating an offensive flair, he’ll represent a more rare breed of player than one who gets 15 to 20 goals as an inconsistent banger on the wing.

• First thing that went through my mind when I heard Edmonton asked Sheldon Souray to stay away from camp? Right move for Oil Country.

• Did some stat crunching on Vincent Lecavalier for the most recent issue of THN and discovered some interesting info for those who believe Vinny is an elite goal-scorer who’s lost his way in recent years: Take away his 52-goal, Rocket Richard Trophy outing in 2006-07 and his 13-goal showing as an NHL freshman and he’s averaged just 29 tallies per year over nine seasons. Keep that in mind when contemplating what goal totals can realistically be expected of him moving forward.

• Speaking of Lecavalier, I wasn’t originally sold on Tampa as a playoff team this year, but the closer the season gets, the more I get sucked in by the hype…

• If Jaroslav Halak and Jimmy Howard pick up where they left off in last year’s playoffs and Marty Turco really is removed from his best days, is it inconceivable St. Louis wins the Central?

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• Let’s just skip right on past this season for a moment and take a quick peak at potential UFAs next summer. There are a number of big names out there, but when you eliminate those who seem like strong candidates to re-sign where they are - Joe Thornton, Zdeno Chara, Andrei Markov - the possibility for exciting movement is reduced. That said, I’m interested to see what becomes of Brad Richards in Dallas and Alexander Semin in Washington. Richards has resurrected his career with the Stars, but acknowledged not much can get done in the way of contract extensions until the Dallas ownership situation sorts itself out.

Semin, meanwhile, seems like a potential cap casualty in Washington because he brings more of what they already have and none of what they need to add.

THN Puck Panel: Which division is the best in the NHL?

PRODUCER: Ted Cooper

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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