TAMPA, Fla -- While a lot of focus has been placed on the Penguins injuries – and rightfully so considering they lead the league with 223 man-games lost – but little attention is paid to the players that have been returning to the lineup from injury.
One such player is center Dustin Jeffrey
Jeffrey, who is recovering from a knee injury, has played the last two games for Pittsburgh after sitting out over two months. He’s stepped into a center role between Pascal Dupuis
and Tyler Kennedy
. The combo contributed with a goal in the Penguins’ 4-1 win at Florida.
“It feels good,” he said of the knee. “I’ve got to shake the rust off coming in. The last few games we’ve gotten minutes and chances. Our line had a goal (at Florida). I think it’s coming pretty well. We’re starting to play well.
“We’re not giving up anything and getting our chances. Kennedy’s goal was huge for our line. Moving forward that will be the biggest thing.”
Jeffrey originally suffered a knee injury March 24, 2011 at Philadelphia which cut short a successful rookie season that saw him post 12 points (7G-5A) in 25 games.
After a summer-long rehab, Jeffrey still wasn’t ready to open the season in game action. He made his 2011-12 debut Oct. 20 against Montreal, however, he was forced to shutdown and start rehabbing again in early November.
“When you come in you want to contribute. When I came in last year I was able to contribute right away,” Jeffrey said. “I thought it was all coming together. Right now that’s what I’m trying to get back to.”
“It’s been tough for Dustin this year,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Even now, he’s playing with not having played a lot of games, no training camp and not much conditioning. He’s been able to step in and play pretty good hockey for us in a tough spot on the second line with Dupuis and Kennedy.”
While Jeffrey is back in the lineup, he’s still not playing to the level he was at last season when he was starting to develop into a strong two-way threat for Pittsburgh. As he works on his conditioning and strength, his game will start to improve in that direction.
“It’s coming. It’s a work in progress,” he said. “There are little things, my foundation and what I bring to the game, I still can improve. A big one is faceoffs. It’s something I take pride in, but I was dominated in (against Florida). Moving forward I’ve got to get my timing back and get stronger in that area.”
Bylsma likes what he’s seen from Jeffrey so far, and expects that he’ll only get better.
“I’ve been impressed with his battle level,” Bylsma said. “For not having played in a lot of games and not being in not being in top shape, his battle and compete level on faceoffs and D zone coverage has been very good. He’s still got a ways to go in terms of getting back to that top shape and being in game situations.
“Dustin is a guy we think real highly of. He’s played a limited amount of games for our team in the past 2-3 years, but his numbers have been good. He’s played in different situations. He can add some offense. He’s certainly going to be counted on to keep raising his game.”