BUFFALO, New York – Center Dustin Jeffrey
has been so dominant with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that he earned an opportunity to play in Pittsburgh.
It took him 6:43 minutes to make the opportunity pay off.
Jeffrey scored his first goal of the season in his first game with Pittsburgh to open the scoring in the Penguins’ 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena Saturday night.
Jeffrey also set up Mike Rupp’s third-period goal, which gave Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead to seal the win with 3:13 remaining, to record his first career two-point game in the NHL.
“Our line played well all night,” said Jeffrey, who played with Rupp and Craig Adams
. “Our play all night was to get pucks behind their defense. They like to jump up on the rush. I think we took advantage of that. We kept pucks below the goal line and put pucks to the net.”
“Jeffrey gets in his first game of the year and starts us off with a goal,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He goes to the net and gets the goal. They got a huge goal with three minutes left. They got to the offensive zone and had guys in the blue paint. That one sealed the deal for us.”
On Jeffrey’s goal, defenseman Ben Lovejoy
pinched along the far wall and threw a pass to the front of the net. Jeffrey was standing atop the crease and gained body positioning over former Penguin Jordan Leopold. The puck went off Jeffrey’s skate and jumped over the shoulder of goaltender Ryan Miller.
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“I went right to the net and (Lovejoy) threw a puck there,” Jeffrey said. “It just went off my skate and went in.”
Jeffrey, 22, has impressed the Penguins’ brass with his play in the American Hockey League this season. At the time of his recall, he was tied for the league lead in scoring with 30 points, while ranking in the top 10 in goals (13, t-6th), assists (17, t-7th) and shots (92, 8th), while leading WBS to an AHL-best 21-5 record.
“I think it’s going really well,” said Jeffrey of his development. “The coaches have really been talking a lot to us, they give us a lot of feedback. It’s going well, when the team’s doing as well as they are now, it’s pretty easy for everybody to contribute.”
But what Penguins management has been most impressed with is Jeffrey’s play away from the puck.
“This year (Jeffrey has) been significantly better than last year,” Bylsma said. “Last year he was getting the points, but this year his all-around game has been better in every area of the game: work ethic level; penalty kill; power play has been outstanding; five-on-five. … this is a guy we've heard a lot of great things about his play away from the puck, leadership, and this is a callup he's earned.”
Jeffrey’s two-point effort helped the Penguins earn their 12th straight win, and extended their unbeaten stretch to 15 games (14-0-1).
“These guys are doing really well here, so you just kind of want to come in and you don’t want to stir the pot too much,” he said. “You just kind of want to play your game and hopefully I’ll help the team.”
Jeffrey certainly helped the team, and showed why he deserved a chance to play in Pittsburgh.
“Everybody that’s in WBS, they’re waiting for their opportunity,” Jeffrey said. “I was lucky enough to get mine now, so hopefully I can make the most of it.”
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