ShareThis Page

Penguins notebook: Jeffrey, Vitale wage battle for playing time

| Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 8:40 p.m.

One day after Dustin Jeffrey started the season as the fourth-line center, he was a healthy scratch in favor of Joe Vitale.

This is a trend that could continue.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma made it clear Sunday that he likes both players and could use them in a rotation, depending on the opposition and which is playing at a higher level.

“There's certainly competition there,” Bylsma said.

Vitale is in the classic fourth-line mold, a physical, straight-line player who draws penalties and is defensively responsible.

Jeffrey, meanwhile, adds an element of skill that isn't often seen on fourth lines. He scored seven goals in 25 games two seasons ago when centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were out with injuries, which paved the way for Jeffrey to see more ice time.

A knee injury derailed Jeffrey's 2011-12 season, but he believes he is 100 percent healthy.

“Dustin is a guy who can do a lot of different things,” Bylsma said. “He can play up (on the top two lines), play the power play, penalty kill, play wing, adds some skills. In the American Hockey League, he was a shutdown center.”

The competition figures to rage on most of the season, unless an injury opens the door for both to play. Bylsma doesn't seem discouraged by Vitale's play, even though he did opt to make him a healthy scratch in Philadelphia.

• Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik leveled Rangers forward Chris Kreider late in the third period with a big hit, sending a woozy Kreider to the bench. Orpik was not penalized — nor should he have been, according to the Rangers. “Maybe we need to get whacked around a little more,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “That's a clean hit.” One of Orpik's former teammates agreed. “Brooks Orpik is a pretty clean player,” Rangers forward Arron Asham said.

• Penguins general manager Ray Shero confirmed that the penalty against center Brandon Sutter in the first period was the correct call. Sutter was penalized for touching the puck with his hand while taking a faceoff, resulting in a two-minute penalty.

— Josh Yohe

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.