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Call-ups Keep Playoff Mentality

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins fans might not be aware of it, but Tuesday’s tilt with Columbus is Game 7. So is Thursday’s game against Los Angeles.

OK, they might not be actual playoff Game 7s, but don’t tell players like Dustin Jeffrey, Eric Tangradi and Tim Wallace.

“I have to approach every game like this is my Game 7,” Jeffrey said.

The Penguins recently called up Jeffrey, Tangradi and Wallace from their top minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the wake of a string of injuries to forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Mark Letestu and Arron Asham.

With Malkin being sidelined for a while and Letestu out four to six weeks, the WBS call-ups are looking to take advantage of their extended opportunity.

“When you’re young, you need to take these opportunities and run with it,” Tangradi said. “When guys are hurt, you step up a little bit, take the role and run with it.”

Both Jeffrey and Tangradi spent time in Pittsburgh earlier in the season, prior to their most recent call-up. But this is Wallace’s first soiree in the NHL this season.

“Obviously the system’s the same, so maybe it’s a little easier transition than other teams,” Wallace said.

Head coach Dan Bylsma frequently stresses that the WBS Penguins play the exact same style of hockey as their parent club, so any player making the upward move will know exactly what is expected of him.

“I think it makes it really easy that you don’t have to worry about the forecheck or the defensive zone coverage, you just have to worry about playing the game,” Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey has been called up six times this season, but being shuttled back-and-forth doesn’t affect his play.

“You know the system, it’s been pounded into your head since training camp Day 1,” Jeffrey said. “It’s easy to transition that way.”

But even with key players out for extended periods of time, nobody is getting complacent with their spot in the lineup.

“None of the guys from Wilkes-Barre, myself included, are guaranteed to be here very long,” Jeffrey said.

“You just try to take every day as it goes,” Wallace said. “You don’t want to focus on next month or next week. You just go every day and do your job. Hopefully, you can stay as long as possible.”
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