Dustin Jeffrey is a well mannered person who will never publicly say this but you can bet he would not have minded being in Eric Tangradi’s shoes last week and being traded to another team that planned on giving him a better opportunity and regular role in the lineup than he’s getting with the Penguins.
Jeffrey has been scratched for 13 of 17 games this season but will return to the lineup tonight in place of Joe Vitale who will be a healthy scratch. With the way he’s viewed by the coaching staff, Jeffrey will probably be back in the press box Sunday night, regardless of how he plays tonight. That’s just how it’s gone for him.
Aside from his poor performance against Philadelphia in the season opener on Jan 19, Jeffrey has played well this season and was one of the Penguins best forwards against the Islanders on Jan 29, a 4-1 loss, and showed some promise in two games (Jan 29 vs NYI, Jan 31 vs NYR) on Evgeni Malkin’s line in late January, but Jeffrey’s audition with Malkin ended after the Penguins claimed Zach Boychuk¬†that week and since February 1st, Jeffrey has been in the lineup just once in the Penguins last 10 games.
As expected you could see a sense of frustration from Jeffrey this morning due to the lack of opportunities he’s been given from the coaching staff.
“You want to play everyday,” Jeffrey said following the morning skate. What Jeffrey hopes to happen is find a way to get extended games in the lineup. “It’s an opportunity tonight and if I have a good game hopefully I can stay in the lineup,” Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey is not an ideal fourth liner but that’s where he gets his opportunity tonight.
“What I bring to the table is a little different than what Joe brings to the table,” Jeffrey said. “I think we’re all aware of that. We know what he can bring to the team. I just gotta make sure I play my game and not try to change it to fill whatever role people think.”
Based on Bylsma’s comments today, you could sense he might not be pleased with Vitale’s play with the puck of late. Bylsma today called Jeffrey a “smarter” player with the puck than Vitale and also having a higher hockey IQ, which is one of Jeffrey’s strength’s as a player. “Dustin’s different than Joe Vitae, that’s for sure,” Bylsma said. “Joe a little more of an energy guy, physical guy who’s real good on faceoffs. Dustin is decent on faceoffs and is a smarter opportunistic player with a high IQ with the puck. {Dustin} makes plays with the puck whether he plays on the fourth line or four on four. He’s a guy who adds more offense,” Bylsma said.
Winger Tanner Glass on playing with Jeffrey. “He’s a left hand shot, different coming out on zones and entries,” Glass said. “Different game {than Vitale} but he works hard, and understands what it takes to play successful fourth line.”
“I think if you talk to Dan and what were looking for from our fourth line, obviously we want to be gritty but we want puck possession, want to keep teams pinned in their own zone,” Jeffrey said. “We want to wear other teams down and some of it’s being physical, but we have to get pucks in their zone and create as well.”
Regarding Jeffrey, there continues to be chatter for a while now that management is higher on him than the coaching staff. Jeffrey’s reps at CAA Sports approached Penguin management this summer about whether Jeffrey was in the Penguins plans after they felt he fell out of favor with Bylsma last season. Jeffrey’s reps were told at the time that Jeffrey was in the Penguins plans but that obviously hasn’t been the case yet as some can argue Jeffrey hasn’t been given a legitimate opportunity to earn a full-time role this season.
The Penguins, though, would be better served to hold onto Jeffrey than throw him a bone (favor) at somepoint to give him a better opportunity elsewhere and trade him for a prospect or draft pick like they’ve already done with Eric Tangradi and Ben Lovejoy.
In addition to the lack of forward depth in their system, the best fit for Jeffrey in the lineup for this season or maybe even next season could be on the third line. He has the intangibles to be a fit on the wing with Brandon Sutter and Jeffrey making just $575,000 and a restricted free agent at seasons end, the Penguins could replace a higher salary third liner like Matt Cooke ($1.8MM cap hit, UFA) or Tyler Kennedy ($2MM cap hit, RFA) with the cheaper option in Jeffrey next season to give them an extra $1.2-$1.5 million to put elsewhere.
*The message tonight inside the room from key veterans like Brooks Orpik seem to be not to take a young Panthers team lightly as Orpik said this morning that teams like the Panthers are very unpredictable. Bylsma has the same feel about the Panthers. “{They} work hard and keep coming at you regardless of the line that’s on the ice,” Bylsma said.
*Bylsma said today that the Penguins have played better when they have leads late in games than earlier in games. One correction on playing better with leads early, according to Bylsma, is better puck management. “Early in games been up by two and I think it’s a situation where we need to control the tempo better with puck management.”
*The Penguins are preparing to see youngster Jacob Markstrom in goal. The big goaltender has yet to appear in a game this season and went 2-4-1 with a 2.66 GAA and .923 save percentage last season.


Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Beau Bennett – Brandon Sutter – Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass – Dustin Jeffrey – Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen – Kris Letang
Simon Despres – Deryk Engelland
Marc Andre Fleury in Goal