Tobias Enstrom got a small taste of what it is like to be Dustin Byfuglien.
While killing a penalty Thursday against Minnesota, Enstrom jumped up on a short-handed rush. He raced deep into the Wild zone before sliding a pass that Fredrik Modin buried for a goal.
“He came back to the bench and I was like ‘It feels pretty good being up there, doesn’t it?’’ Byfuglien said. “He cracked a pretty big smile.”
Byfuglien, the former forward, entered Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh tied for the NHL lead in points by a defenseman (16). He was also first in goals (5), game-winning goals (3) and is tied for seventh in assists (11).
The willingness to cover for each other has made the duo so effective.
“If he wants to go up, I’m happy,” Enstrom said. “He can go whenever he wants. I told him. I will cover him up.”
Enstrom was tied for fourth in the league in assists (12) among defensemen and fifth in points (14).
Enstrom and Byfuglien may seem like an odd paring but they have proven to be the Thrashers’ top defensive combination this season.
Enstrom (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) and Byfuglien (6-5, 225) were the only two Thrashers named to the fan ballot for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game. Each said they were honored by the nomination, but were much more concerned with the Thrashers.
“It’s always fun to know that people appreciate what you are doing out there,” Enstrom said.
Through 16 games, each have a minus-2 rating.
“It seemed to be something that fit right away,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. “They worked well together. Toby has been excellent. He’s a guy that saved Buff a bunch of time when Buff is jumping up ice. And in reverse, I think Buff has done a very good job with his stick in our zone. At times, he’s the big, strong body that can bounce people off the puck, come up with it and make plays. Together they are an excellent combo.”