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Penguins Report: Jeffrey Became Latest to Make NHL Debut

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Forward Dustin Jeffrey became the fifth player to play in his first career NHL game for the Penguins this season when he saw action in Pittsburgh’s 1-0 win at New Jersey on Friday.

“I was very nervous at the start,” Jeffrey admitted. “It wasn’t as easy to fall asleep in the afternoon as it usually is. The first couple shifts and warm ups I was a bit nervous. It’s always been a dream to play in my first NHL game so after the first couple of shifts I settled down and started playing my game again.”

Jeffrey joined fellow forwards Tim Wallace and Janne Pesonen, defenseman Ben Lovejoy and goalie John Curry in making his NHL debut for Pittsburgh this year. Jeffrey became the latest recall from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season. With all the injuries Pittsburgh has incurred, the Penguins have pulled 10 different players from the AHL to suit up for Pittsburgh. Jeffrey is the latest player to get his shot with the parent club.

“I wasn’t really worried about it,” Jeffrey said about getting called up. “I was playing good minutes and we were starting to play really well (in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). I was just taking it in stride. Obviously, I was hoping to get called up. You always want to get that call but it wasn’t something I was dwelling on.”

Jeffrey is a natural center but can also play wing, as he did in his debut. He will likely center the fourth line with Paul Bissonnette and Tim Wallace on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens at Mellon Arena at 7 p.m.

I’m versatile. I was playing the wing last night a few times. I think that’s one thing I really bring to this team. - Dustin Jeffrey
“I’m like a defensive center,” Jeffrey said. “I can play the third and fourth lines, getting pucks deep, a cycling game and responsible defensively. Another attribute is that I’m versatile. I was playing the wing last night a few times. I think that’s one thing I really bring to this team.”

Jeffrey’s father, two brothers and cousin made the long drive from Sarnia, Ontario, to New Jersey to watch Dustin play 6:38 minutes of ice time in his first professional game. The group is making the drive to Pittsburgh Saturday to see him play his first game at Mellon Arena.

“It was a long drive,” Jeffrey said. “The flights were pretty expensive so they ended up making the drive and they’re going to make the drive (to Pittsburgh) as well. They should be in the building tonight.”

(click here to read Jeffrey's scouting report)

> The Penguins held an optional morning skate at Mellon Arena on Saturday. Nine players participated, including forwards Sidney Crosby, Maxime Talbot, Paul Bissonnette, Jeffrey and Pascal Dupuis, defensemen Alex Goligoski, Ryan Whitney and Hal Gill and goaltender Dany Sabourin.


Gill, who has been on the injured reserve list after suffering a shoulder injury Dec. 6, practiced the past week and Penguins head coach Michel Therrien said that the 6-foot-7, 250-pound defenseman could return Dec. 30 against Boston.

“He’s close,” Therrien said. “We’re thinking about next game (for a return). Not tonight but probably next game.”

“I’ll do my job and play when they tell me I’m good to,” Gill said. “I hope I can play sometime next week. I don’t want to keep doing bag skates out there.”

Gill has been cleared for contact and won't let his injury change his physical play.

“You’re taking a risk anytime you go into the corner,” Gill said. “When you have an injury, it’s even more of a risk. That’s why the trainers do what they do and tell me when I’m healthy.”

> Pittsburgh’s matchup with the Montreal Canadiens will be its fourth game in six days and fourth back-to-back series in the month of December.

“I’d like to think we’re accustomed to it,” Crosby said of the schedule. “I hope that it’s going to help us as far as knowing how to prepare, especially when you play back-to-back early on maybe you can have an advantage. Hopefully, your legs are in it. As the game goes on, fatigue may set in but it’s something a lot of teams deal with.”

The schedule makers were particularly unkind to the Penguins during their Christmas week. Pittsburgh played at Buffalo on Monday and home against Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Then the club had Christmas Eve and Christmas day off. The Penguins took a 9 a.m. flight to New Jersey for their game against the Devils on Friday, only to return for Saturday’s showdown with Montreal.

The game on the 26th is probably the toughest game to play in the regular season, especially when you’re on the road. That wasn’t a classic but we found a way to win. - Michel Therrien
“The game on the 26th is probably the toughest game to play in the regular season, especially when you’re on the road,” Therrien said. “You have to travel that day, morning skate and you haven’t touched the ice for two days and then you have to play that game. You could see the timing was not quite sharp for both teams in the first period. That wasn’t a classic but we found a way to win.”

Pittsburgh now welcomes the high-flying Canadiens to town for another Hockey Night in Canada showdown. Last Saturday, Pittsburgh suffered a 7-3 loss to Toronto on the national Canadian stage.

“We want to do a little bit better than we did the last time,” Crosby said. “It’s important for us to play better here. We had a couple games that weren’t good by any means here. We have to make sure we establish ourselves at home. It’s really important as the year goes on to establish that.”

“This is a team (Montreal) with a lot of speed,” Therrien said. “This is a good hockey team. We’re right there with them. This is the first game that we play against that team this year. I know from the standpoint of some players, it’s always special to play Montreal.”

> He said it: Crosby on Team Canada’s 8-1 victory over Czech Republic in the IIHF World Juniors Tournament.

“It’s a fun time of year and now that (the tournament is) in Canada there’s even more excitement. It was nice to see them get their first win.”

Click here for Montreal Preview
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