-- It's not the easiest thing to do -- change from one position to another during an NHL season -- but, at least for now, Dustin Jeffrey
of the Pittsburgh Penguins
is just winging it.
In every sense of the word.
Jeffrey, a center most of his career, is currently seeing time as a right wing mostly on the Penguins' third line, which is centered by the recently acquired Cal O'Reilly
. Jeffrey was on a line with No. 2 center Jordan Staal
and left wing Steve Sullivan
when he scored a goal during an 8-5 victory over Winnipeg on Saturday.
With the Penguins overloaded with centers now that two-way star Staal is back after missing 15 games with a left knee injury, coach Dan Bylsma
felt that Jeffrey's proven versatility would allow him to adjust to the move.
"I think it's a bigger move when wingers go from left to right wing, that's not as big a move as from center to wing," said Bylsma, a former NHL forward. "But Dustin Jeffrey
has played a full season at wing in Wilkes-Barre (AHL). For that reason, there was a possibility he could play wing up here because we have so many center men. We've had some injuries so we've needed him to play center, but the possibility of him playing wing has been brought up for a long time."
Currently, the Penguins have Evgeni Malkin
, Staal, O'Reilly and Joe Vitale
at center, with Jeffrey in reserve. Right wing Pascal Dupuis
has filled in at center. And that group doesn't include No. 1 center Sidney Crosby
, who remains out with concussion-like symptoms. Crosby skated again Sunday in advance of the Penguins' optional morning skate.
Jeffrey has 3 goals and 2 assists in 20 games during a season in which he wasn't a full-go until mid-January after having knee surgery last year.
"While he hasn't played there this year and moving to wing is an abrupt change, he's had a fair amount of experience doing it," Bylsma said. "He knows the wall play, he knows the details of playing wing, so it's not a drastic move for him. I think his best season points-wise in the American Hockey League was at wing. He's a smart player and he understands the game really well."
Jeffrey, who realizes that a player's versatility can greatly aid his chances of remaining in the NHL, seemed to make the adjustment rather easily after practicing at wing for several days.
But, despite scoring against the Jets, Jeffrey believes the Penguins need to tighten up defensively – especially when they play Tampa Bay and the ever-dangerous Steven Stamkos
on Sunday night. Stamkos leads the NHL with 37 goals.
"We were almost trading chance for chance, and that's not how we're going to have success," Jeffrey said. "Obviously, we needed some secondary scoring; we got some. … But we can't let up that many goals. Especially against a good team; they're not going to let us score eight goals a game."