All weight jokes aside; Dustin Byfuglien is a big man.
Listed on the Winnipeg roster at 6’5” and 265 pounds, he is four inches taller and 63 pounds heavier than Nashville forward Craig Smith.
More than halfway through the first period of Thursday night’s game, the two Americans met inside the Jets defensive zone. With the puck on the right side, Smith made a nice move to drive toward the Jets net, and then attempted a spin move.
It was there that Byfuglien delivered a hard and high hit on Smith, knocking him to the ice at 13:34 of the first.
No penalty was called on the play, and after the game, Smith thought that was appropriate.
“It was fine,” Smith said. “I kind of kicked to the middle there and had my head down trying to shoot the puck. It was a clean hit. He’s a big man. It could have been a lot worse. He’s a fair player and it was a good hit.”
Smith was able to extract the ultimate revenge late in overtime when he potted the game winner with just 17 ticks remaining on the clock.
It was Byfuglien who turned the puck over inside the Winnipeg blue line, and David Legwand was right behind him to pounce on it. Legwand spotted Smith at the left faceoff dot and slid a pass in his direction. Smith made no mistake, hammering a one-timer by Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec for the winner.
“I felt Leggy made a good play, he put it on a tee,” Smith said. “The emphasis in this room is to shoot the puck and we did a good job of creating chances. I was the finishing touch right there.”
Much like when a baseball player “hits one on the screws,” when a hockey player gets one right in the middle of his blade, he barely feels anything upon connecting.
“I didn’t feel much and when you do that, it goes in pretty hard, so I was lucky to put it in the right spot,” Smith said.
Like Smith, Predators head coach Barry Trotz thought the first period hit on Smith was clean. But he was happy that Smith was able to answer back by getting the game-winner.
After a woeful lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Smith has responded nicely so far this season. He has been much more dangerous in the offensive zone. With Thursday night’s goal, Smith has two goals and five assists in 11 games played.
“He always shoots the puck pretty good, but he’s shooting with confidence,” Trotz said. “He’s got a firmer game. He’s got a lot more poise in his game. He’s not trying to force things. He’s just letting it happen. He’s playing very instinctively. That’s when he’s at his best.”