HARD­EST SHOT — NOT

Big Buff’s best blast too slow

SundayXtra - - FRONT PAGE - By Ed Tait [email protected]­ress.mb.ca Twit­ter: @WFPEdTait

COLUM­BUS — Dustin Byfuglien can bring it — just ask any of his Win­nipeg Jets team­mates or Na­tional Hockey League ri­vals who stand in front of the net try­ing to tip or block one of his how­itzers from the point.

But even the Jets mam­moth de­fence­man had to tip his hat to Shea We­ber of the Nashville Preda­tors, who won Satur­day night’s Hard­est Shot Com­pe­ti­tion at the NHL All- Stars Skills Com­pe­ti­tion.

We­ber hit 108.5 miles per hour on his shot. Byfuglien topped out at 97.3

“It’s not right. There’s guys that got to get hit with that thing,” said Byfuglien, grin­ning. “It’s amaz­ing. It’s some­thing you work on.

“I knew I’d re­ally have to bring it. Maybe I’ll push for next time.”

Byfuglien was one of four shoot­ers se­lected for Team Foligno in the hard­est shot event, in­clud­ing Alex Ovechkin of the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals, Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Light­ning star Steven Stamkos.

We­ber, rep­re­sent­ing Team Toews, missed the net on his first at­tempt but — in the last shot of the event — un­leashed his fury. We­ber es­ti­mated the hard­est he had shot be­fore was in the 106-range.

“I knew I could at least shoot that hard in the past, so it’s tough,” said We­ber. “But I re­ally hadn’t done it. We didn’t do it last year, ob­vi­ously, be­cause of the Olympics. You don’t do that in games and I don’t prac­tise it in prac­tice, so it’s such a weird thing to do. The nerves ob­vi­ously showed on the first one when I put it in the cor­ner.”

FYI, the record in the event it 108.8, set by Zdeno Chara of the Bos­ton Bru­ins in 2012.

Asked if the hard­est shot is the mar­quee event of the skills com­pe­ti­tion, Toews of­fered his in­sight.

“Well, I think it’s cool be­cause you hear play­ers at any level when they get the chance to test their shots they want to com­pare them­selves to the all-time greats, the (Al) MacIn­nises and the (Al) Iafrates and the Cha­ras,” said Toews. “And tonight, We­ber. Some of us don’t ever want to know the an­swers to that. So we’ll just hide be­hind what­ever veil there is and let it re­main a mys­tery, I guess.”

But back to Byfuglien... the veteran de­fence­man rarely spends a day at the rink with­out smil­ing a gazil­lion times. And Satur­day night was no dif­fer­ent. His high­light?

“Just be­ing a part of all this, the group of guys in here, and en­joy­ing ev­ery­thing,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s the whole thing. It’s the ex­pe­ri­ence... the lock­er­room, be­ing out­side, fam­ily. It’s good to be a part of ev­ery­thing.”

Byfuglien also par­tic­i­pated in the shootout com­pe­ti­tion, the night’s fi­nal event, beat­ing Jaroslav Halak of the New York Is­landers on a nifty back­hand. When it was sug­gested his goal might help him con­vince Jets coach Paul Mau­rice to give him reg­u­lar op­por­tu­ni­ties in the real shootout, Byfuglien smiled.

“Yeah. I’ll al­ways throw it out there when I feel like it,” he said. “It’s not my spe­cialty, but know­ing I had a lit­tle more time and it’s more for fun, I thought I’d try a nice lit­tle move and see what hap­pens.”

The week­end wraps up to­day with the all-star game. Byfuglien isn’t sure who he’ll be paired with de­fen­sively. Then, again, that doesn’t re­ally mat­ter. His goal for the week­end fi­nale is sim­ple.

“Just to have fun,” said Byfuglien. “I mean, we’ve got to grind through­out the year. Just to be on the ice catch­ing passes from some dif­fer­ent play­ers makes the game fun. I’m go­ing to en­joy it.”

PHO­TOS BY GENE J. PUSKAR / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Win­nipeg Jets de­fence­man Dustin Byfuglien leans into one dur­ing the hard­est shot event dur­ing the NHL All- Star skills com­pe­ti­tion in Colum­bus Satur­day. Buff’s side, Team Foligno, won the over­all com­pe­ti­tion.

Ot­tawa Se­na­tors’ Mike Hoff­man rounds the py­lons dur­ing a heat in the fastest skater com­pe­ti­tion (above). TV view­ers caught some cool an­gles thanks to a cam­era mounted on St. Louis goalie Brian El­liot (top left), while Colum­bus Blue Jacket Ryan Jo­hansen...

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