CHICAGO - Here's how Dustin Byfuglien sees it: The puck always finds him when he is in the perfect position. His Chicago Blackhawks teammates view it this way: Big Buff's easy to find when he's open because at 6-4, 257 pounds, he's hard to miss.
Whatever the reason, Byfuglien has emerged as a star for the young Blackhawks. He scored three game-winning goals during a sweep of San Jose in the Western Conference finals that put Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1992.
Like a big tight end clawing his way through defenders to get open or a linebacker crushing a running back with a block in the open field, Byfuglien's physical play, deft touch and ability to clear space have given his team another element in its quest for the franchise's first Cup since 1961.
Put him on the same line with the team's most recognizable and publicized young stars, 21-year-old Patrick Kane and 22-year-old captain Jonathan Toews, and Byfuglien has really blossomed. He scored one goal in each game against the Sharks.
"I'm not really on any cloud right now," said Byfuglien (pronounced BUHF'-lihn). "I'm just doing work for the kids and finishing it up. I have faith in myself and I just kept going."
Byfuglien, 25, showed his versatility against the Sharks. He had the game-winner in the opener with a wrist shot from the slot after Toews won a faceoff and Kane slid him the puck.
Meanwhile, teammate Duncan Keith, Chicago's top defenseman, lost seven teeth in the clincher over the Sharks. He returned to the game and finished with a game-high 29 minutes, 2 seconds of ice time. He lost four bottom teeth and three more on top.
"You've got leave it all on the ice," Keith said after the game when he was headed for some major dental work. The team said yesterday it had no update on his condition.