Pens' Jeffrey: 'I just want to be out there every night'
Penguins center Dustin Jeffrey made it clear Friday that he hasn't been thrilled with being excluded from the lineup. He got his chance to play against Florida and said he hopes it will be the beginning of more regular playing time.
Jeffrey, who has been a healthy scratch in 13 of 18 games this season, skated on the fourth line at Thursday's practice and Friday's morning skate and played against the Panthers.
Jeffrey rewarded Bylsma's decision to insert him into the lineup by scoring with 4:45 remaining in the third period, banging in a pass from left wing Matt Cooke for his first goal of the season.
“I wouldn't say I'm happy to play one game out of every five,” Jeffrey said. “Obviously you want to play every night. If I have a good game, hopefully I can stay in the lineup.”
Jeffrey acknowledged that he doesn't fit the profile of a classic fourth-line center. Joe Vitale, who has been playing the majority of the time on the fourth line, is a physical grinder, something that is more common on the fourth line.
Jeffrey is aware of that but maintains he can be the player to fit that role.
“If you talk to (head coach) Dan (Bylsma),” Jeffrey said, “and ask what we're looking for, we want to be gritty, but we also want puck possession. We want to play on our own zone. Some of it is being physical, but you have to be able to hold onto the puck.”
Bylsma seems curious to see how Jeffrey will play. Vitale has not scored a goal this season. The only fourth-liners with goal sthis season are Jeffrey and right wing Craig Adams, who has scored twice.
“Dustin is different than Joe Vitale,” Bylsma said. “Joe's more of an energy guy, a physical guy. Dustin's a smarter positional player. He's got a high IQ with the puck. He makes better plays with the puck. He adds more offensively.”
His linemates don't have any issues with the change from Vitale to Jeffrey.
“It's a little different because he's left-handed,” left wing Tanner Glass said. “But it's not a big deal. He's a skilled guy.”
Jeffrey scored seven goals in 25 games during the 2010-11 season before sustaining a torn ACL in Philadelphia. He saw limited action the following season and admitted that his knee injury was not fully recovered.
Now he is 100 percent.
Despite limited action, Jeffrey said he is pleased with his work.
“I'm pretty happy with how I've played,” Jeffrey said. “I just want to be out there every night.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
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