- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The one unexpected benefit Joel Quenneville may have received following Brent Seabrook’s vicious injury was the move of Dustin Byfuglien back to defense.
Byfuglien was used on Wednesday and Thursday in an emergency situation after the Blackhawks lost three defensemen to injury in three consecutive games. He played so well on the blue line that Quenneville is thinking of leaving him there, even if his other defensemen return to health.
“I don’t want to make an official announcement about [Byfuglien] being a defensemen but we really liked what we saw,” Quenneville said after practice on Friday. “Right now, as a group here, we’re thinking, let’s keep him on D and see how it goes.”
Byfuglien manned the blue line for three years in the minors under current assistant coach Mike Haviland, and began his NHL career there as well. In the 2007-08 season, then-Hawks coach Denis Savard, moved him to wing and he had a breakout year, scoring 19 goals. He’s been there ever since -- until now.
“I’ve always been comfortable playing defense,” Byfuglien sad. “It’s gone maybe a little bit smoother than I thought it would. It’s been fun and hopefully I can stick around back there a little longer.”
It’s gone more than a little smooth. In his first full game on defense since 2008, he played 20:56, had an assist and led the team with six shots as well as five hits. He also helped the Hawks end a three-game losing slide with a shutout against the Kings. He was also voted the No. 3 star of the game. Not a bad night.
Brent Seabrook was surrounded by some teammates as he answered questions from the media for the first time since getting knocked out. Byfuglien tried to lighten a serious mood by manning the Hawks website camera. Then he took the camera into the showers. No word on whether that video will air.
Cristobal Huet is feeling better after a bad bout of the flu that began on the flight to California. “My body was shaking and I felt like an 80 year old,” Huet said. He practiced for the first time all week, but Antti Niemi will start in goal on Saturday.
Kim Johnsson did not join the team in Arizona as hoped. He’s still recovering from an upper body injury that has had him miss the last three games.