The Pittsburgh Penguins did not take top-line minutes away from Dustin Jeffrey in Wilkes Barre to sit in the press box this weekend, following his callup to the Big Club on Friday.
Although the Penguins may look for Jeffrey to get a full practice in before dressing, Jeffrey is expected to be in the lineup as Evgeni Malkin will likely sit out another game on Saturday night. Malkin did not practice on Friday but is expected to participate in Saturday’s morning skate, per head coach Dan Bylsma, but indications are he’s doubtful to play.
For Jeffrey he get’s his opportunity to show that he can play at the NHL level.
Jeffrey, 22, is tied for the AHL lead in scoring with 30 points through 25 games. He is also tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals with four, while ranking in the top 10 in goals (13, t-6th), assists (17, t-7th) and shots on goal (92, 8th).
The Penguins sixth-round pick (171st overall) in the 2007 Entry Draft, Jeffrey has played 15 NHL games with Pittsburgh n his career, recording three points (1G-2A) and a plus-4 rating.
During most of those 15 NHL games, he was over matched. Now a year older and again playing dominant hockey in the AHL, I’m intrigued to see how Jeffrey’s game translate at the NHL level, which has been the concern from scouts in the past.
He had a strong preseason but that was just a small sampling and far from going up against a full NHL roster.
Jordan Staal’s timetable is going to be pushed back which could open an opportunity for Jeffrey to get an extended look but this is a crowded lineup as Malkin is getting closer to returning.
WILL ANOTHER PLAYER REACH THE 26 GOAL MARK?
*Sidney Crosby has 14 goals during Pittsburgh’s 11 game winning streak and courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau, the Penguins player with the second most goals during the Penguins winning streak is Chris Kunitz with 3 goals.
Crosby collected goal No. 25 and 26 during Wednesday night’s 5-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, reaching 26 goals in 30 games.
It’s a remarkable feat from the standpoint that there isn’t one player on the Penguins roster projected to score more than 22 goals this year. Will another player get to 26 goals?
Chris Kunitz (8) and Evgeni Malkin (8) are projected to score 22 goals this year. Pascal Dupuis who is 4th on the team with 7 goals this season, is projected to score 19 goals at his current pace, which is right around where he was last year in scoring 18 goals.
If Kunitz stays healthy he has a shot to reach the 25 goal plateau. Malkin though is still the best bet to top 26 goals if anyone does it.
*Pittsburgh enters Saturday’s action with the best record in the NHL at 20-8-2-40pts
*Pittsburgh is tied for 5th in Goals per game at 3.13 and 3rd overall in goals against at 2.30.
*The Penguins PK unit has given up a power play goal in 4 straight games and still rank 2nd in the NHL at 88.5%.
*Establishing themselves as one of the toughest teams in the NHL, Pittsburgh is second in the NHL with 812 hits. New York is first with 898 hits.