Weekend takeaways: Byfuglien, Maple Leafs, Las Vegas

Byfuglien is seventh in D-man scoring and tied for first in goals. (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI/Getty)

Dustin Byfuglien for the Norris? Depends which game you’re watching. And often, which shift.

Sunday night on Rogers Hometown Hockey, the Jets defenceman showed why he can be one of the game’s most influential players, and one of it’s most confounding. He took three penalties, including one in the final minutes of a 3-3 deadlock for unsportsmanlike conduct after he petulantly knocked the puck away from a linesman because he didn’t like an offside call.

But he’d scored the third Winnipeg goal, drawn two penalties with power rushes and ended up being on the right side of the Jets’ 4-3 shootout win after skating 27:33 on the Winnipeg back end.

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Byfuglien’s talents will be on display this weekend at the all-star festivities in Columbus, and as the Jets continue to soar, it will become increasingly impossible to ignore the big defenceman’s contributions and measure them against blueliners like Drew Doughty, Mark Giordano and others.

Other weekend takeaways

Facing reality
Things are messy indeed in Toronto, with the team having played both worse (in some ways) and better (in other ways) under new head coach Peter Horachek than was the case under the departed Randy Carlyle.

But if you go just by wins and losses, Horachek’s reign so far has been a disaster. That may change now that the Leafs have a few home games, and perhaps their goal-scoring touch will return. But the organization as a whole is no longer focussed on making any moves aimed at just making the playoffs this season, with the No. 1 priority now cleaning up its problematic cap situation and creating some flexibility.

That means the Leafs will be sellers at the trade deadline. At the same time, they’re opening talks with forward Mike Santorelli and defenceman Cody Franson to see if there are ways to secure their services beyond this year.

There’s only one untouchable Leaf, and that’s not in a good way. David Clarkson’s contract makes him untradeable and immune to any buyouts because it’s so heavily bonus-laden. He’s there for the duration, no matter what he does or doesn’t do on the ice.

He’s not planning to change
The expectation is Dan Carcillo of the Blackhawks will get five to seven games for his vicious and uncalled for crosscheck on Mathieu Perreault. But after visiting the disciplinarian’s office at least eight other times, maybe start with 20 games and then reform might be possible?

Still in demand
The latest team connected with having interest in Buffalo power forward Chris Stewart is Nashville. The Sabres have lost a team record 11 straight games, but there’s no sign yet GM Tim Murray is ready to start selling.

Putting a toe in the water
As reported by Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada, the Las Vegas NHL ticket drive begins Feb. 9. Canadian poker star Daniel Negreanu has already indicated he plans to sign on the dotted line.

Names in the news
Once again, there’s lots of chatter about Colorado centre Ryan O’Reilly, and whether the Avs will look to move him with one more year left on his lucrative, $6.2-million contract.

Sharpshooter to get paid
St. Louis winger Vladimir Tarasenko is finishing up his entry-level contract this season, and it’s unlikely this is a bridge contract situation. Indeed, some are wondering if the only uncertainty on a long-term deal is whether Tarasenko’s next salary will start with a “7” or an “8.”

Substitute masked men
Detroit’s still holding it together despite being without goalies Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson because of injuries. When Petr Mrazek, the interim starter, got pulled early against Buffalo Sunday night after falling behind 3-0, Thomas McCollum came in an got his first NHL win.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Wings held the Sabres to just seven shots over the final two periods.

Future still unclear
Philly defenceman Kimmo Timmonen’s uncertain NHL career remains uncertain after it was revealed that while the blood clots in his lungs have responded to treatement, the one in his leg remains.

These boys can shoot
Dallas scored a combined 11 goals on the weekend in wins over Washington and Chicago. The Stars are now second to only Tampa in goals per game. Toronto, meanwhile, has plummeted to ninth in team offence after scoring once in four road games last week.

Dealing in the desert
Now that Andrew Barroway is in control of the Coyotes and GM Don Maloney seems set to start selling off assets after moving goalie Devan Dubnyk last week, it will be interesting to see if players like Antoine Vermette, Keith Yandle, Martin Erat and other vets get moved. There’s little indication Shane Doan is going anywhere.

The good news is the Coyotes are no longer last in NHL attendance. The bad news is that’s because other teams have dropped past them. Otherwise, Arizona’s average home attendance is down, although the team traditionally draws better in the second half.

Doing it the right way
Last year it was Tyler Johnson (undrafted) and Ondrej Palat (seventh-rounder) who made the Tampa Bay Lightning look like they sure know what they’re doing when it comes to developing players. Now it’s 21-year-old Nikita Kucherov, a second-rounder, who leads the entire NHL with plus-28 to go with his 17 goals. Johnson, by the way, is second at plus-26.

GM Steve Yzerman has been able to gradually establish his program with the support of owner Jeff Vinik, who has a vision for the Bolts. We’ll see if Yzerman’s former Detroit teammate Brendan Shanahan can enact the same kind of plan in Toronto, and whether he’ll get the same kind of blank cheque support from ownership.

All eyes on St. Catharines
NHL scouts will descend on the Meridian Centre in St. Catherines this week for the CHL Top Prospects Game. So far, Mathew Barzal (Seattle), Nikita Korostelev (Sarnia), Callum Booth (Quebec) and Jakub Zboril (Saint John) are out with injuries, while Blake Speers (Sault Ste. Marie), Nathan Noel (Saint John) and Rasmus Andersson (Barrie) are in. We’ll see what other injury replacements are made this week for Thursday’s showcase.

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