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Preseason Game 4 Wrapup: Jeffrey, Letestu impressive in win

Post-Game Observations & Analysis

Pens stay undefeated: The Pittsburgh Penguins are off to a 4-0 start in the preseason defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Tuesday night at the Consol Energy Center. The team got goals from Evgeni Malkin, Dustin Jeffrey, Max Talbot and Nick Johnson. Goaltender Brent Johnson made 21 saves in the win.
It was again another team effort and head coach Dan Bylsma was very encouraged in that his players are starting to understand how he wants them to play.
“I liked a lot of things about the game, head coach Dan Bylsma said. “From individuals and from our team, I like looking up at the end and seeing 40 shots to 20 or so..39. Their {Chicago} a team that has some skill and talent, but we kept playing and a lot of guys played well and you can see our team….guys start to understand how we want to play and that was encouraging about the way we played tonight as well, ” Bylsma said.
On Dustin Jeffrey: What caught my eye tonight is how effective the Penguins were at driving to the net and Dustin Jeffrey told me after the game that’s exactly what the coaching staff is stressing.
They {coaching staff} stress it a lot, ” Jeffrey told Inside Pittsburgh Sports. “They want a lot of traffic in front of the net, and when you have somebody going it opens up the people behind you and I think you saw that a lot tonight. With our goal and even Letestu’s goal and Max’s goal. When you have guys driving to the net, there is always havoc.”
In what might have been his last audition at winning one of the final forward spots, Jeffrey played extremely well in the win and I really liked his game.
From the drop of the puck he appeared to have an extra jump in his step. Jeffrey was very effective on the forecheck, creating offense off the cycle. In the 1st period he set up a number of offensive opportunities with his linemates and in the 2nd was rewarded, scoring on a tipin at the 3:46 mark of the period.
He also showed excellent chemistry with Mike Rupp and Craig Adams and that will likely be in the back of the coaching staff’s mind this season.
“It was easy playing with those guys {Rupp, Adams}, keep it pretty simple ended up having a lot of chances, ” Jeffrey said. “It felt good and I think our line was really rolling.”
With 12-14 cuts expected to be made Wednesday morning, Jeffrey is hopeful to stick around as he feels that he’s starting to play to his ability.
“This is my third game I’ve played now, ” Jeffrey said. “I’m starting to get comfortable…..it’s easier coming off the summer handling pucks and when you begin playing game after game it really starts to settle in and you begin to play like you should be.”
While Jeffrey remains a longshot to win one of the final forward spots, he had the type of performance that he needed to have and Dan Bylsma hinted that Jeffrey may still be in the mix.
“Mark Letestu played well tonight…..Dustin Jeffrey played well tonight…..Brett Sterling good on that line as well, Bylsma said. “It didn’t really clear things up too much. They all did a pretty good job of making it hard, ” Bylsma said when asked if the performances tonight from some of the bubble players made things any easier.
Letestu continues to shine: Mark Letestu took yet another step to securing a roster spot with the team. He was impressive once again and since the Penguins opened up camp on Saturday September 18th, Letestu has been the best overall player.
A intrguing part of Letestu’s game is his offensive potential. At times he looks like a player who could become a regular 15-20 goal player. Has soft hands in around the net and that showed tonight.
Letestu has seized his opportunity in camp and has responded well to the pressure of needing to perform well on a daily basis.
“There’s a lot of good guys in this system, a lot of guys are pushing for jobs, and you know one or two nights off could be the end of it, ” Letestu said. “I feel like I’ve had a good camp.”
Despite becoming a near lock to make the team, after the game Letestu downplayed his chances even though he is eligible for waivers.
“I’m not confident that it’s gonna be me, Letestu said. “Like I said, I’ve done what i think I can, so far, obviously there’s still some work to do. Whoever they choose, I’m sure will be a good decision.”
Will Despres survive next round of cuts?: 2009 1st round pick Simon Despres had 16:09 of ice time and was a +1 in his second game of the preseason. He is a +3 through two preseason games and Despres told me afterwards that he felt more comfortable in his second game and hopes to stick around.
“I felt more comfortable in my second game for sure, ” Despres told Inside Pittsburgh Sports. “Everyday I’m here I get better and it’s a good thing for me. I want to stay here as long as I could and hopefully crack the lineup….you never know, ” Despres said.
Despres told me the speed of the game from juniors to the NHL has been an adjustment at times and most importantly he is just looking to make the smart play and keep his mistakes to a minimum.
“Just looking to making smart plays, simple plays, ” Despres said.
Johnson shows up in the 3rd: There has been little buzz about Nick Johnson thus far but he quietly produces and you can’t overlook the little things he does.
After being non-existent for the first 40 minutes, Johnson turned up his game in the 3rd. He started making some noise by driving to the net. He had a great center drive on his 3rd period tally (2nd goal of preseason) by forcing defenders back, creating an open lane.
Johnson’s a player who has some good NHL qualities and appears NHL ready but again doesn’t appear he did enough to jump others in front of him on the organization depth chart.
Notes: The Penguins will have an off-day on Wednesday. They will return to the ice on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. The team will practice at Southpointe then take a charter at 3:30 p.m. to Chicago for Thursday night’s game.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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