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Dustin Byfuglien might miss Atlanta’s important game against New Jersey on Tuesday


James O’Brien

At one point in the season, it seemed like Atlanta Thrashers hybrid defenseman Dustin Byfuglien might have a chance to eclipse the 70-point mark. He became a worthy all-star this season thanks in large part to his 40 points in the months of October, November and December.

Yet something must have happened to “Buffy the Hamburger Slayer” around New Year’s, because the hard-shooting blueliner hasn’t been able to maintain that first half magic in 2011. After notching those 40 points in only 41 games - stunning numbers for any defenseman, even a “rover” like Byfuglien - he has nine points in his last 27 games. That’s not a great sign for the franchise, especially after handing him a Byfuglien-sized five-year, $26 million contract recently.

Despite his relative struggles, the team needs him to play if they want to make a desperate late run back into the playoff picture. Atlanta might need to fight without their super-sized defenseman for a bit, though, as he’s questionable with an upper body injury according to Chris Vivlamore.

Dustin Byfuglien is questionable for Tuesday’s game against New Jersey after he left practice early Monday.

The All-Star defenseman has a lower-body injury that caused him to miss last Wednesday’s game at Carolina.

“He’s made some pretty miraculous recoveries,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said after Monday’s workout.

Losing Byfuglien for an extended amount of time would be a huge blow to an already staggering team, so we’ll keep you updated regarding his status.