OTTAWA -- Nothing Dustin Jeffrey has done this season has been enough to secure a steady spot in the lineup.
Putting up a couple of points in the first 11 minutes of the Penguins' 3-1 victory Monday night against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place isn't guaranteed to do it, either.
Scoring the Penguins' first goal and assisting on their second, however, did earn him an upbeat evaluation from coach Dan Bylsma.
"That was a good way to start the game from him," Bylsma said. "He absolutely made some great plays, was good in the faceoff circle [winning 9 of 12]. I thought he played a really good game."
Jeffrey had been a healthy scratch for nine of the previous 10 games, but filled in more than capably at center on the second line.
"That's what I can contribute when I'm given an opportunity to come into the lineup," he said. "I have to make that kind of stuff happen.
Buffalo Sabres vs. Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
- TV, Radio:
Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders:
Ryan Miller for Sabres; Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins.
Have killed all 20 opponents power plays in past six games at Consol Energy Center. ... LW Chris Kunitz has team-high 27 penalty minutes on home ice. ... Are 4-2 in second game when playing on consecutive days.
Are only team to defeat Penguins in their past 15 home games, posting a 4-1 victory April 2. ... LW Thomas Vanek has 20 points in 19 games. ... Were outshot in 31 of their first 43 games.
- Hidden stat:
Sabres have chance to win season series against Penguins for first time since 2005-06.
"You can only come in and do your best and see what happens. We obviously have a lot of guys out with injuries now.
"Coming into the playoffs, you just want to try to stay in the lineup. We'll see where it goes from here."
Jeffrey probably made it out of street clothes only because the Penguins' already diluted lineup was missing a few more regulars.
In addition to their usual list of injured players -- forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal and defenseman Paul Martin -- they played without goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defenseman Kris Letang and forward Beau Bennett.
Fleury's wife was reported close to giving birth to the couple's first child, Letang had food poisoning, and Bennett is listed as day to day with an undisclosed injury.
Fleury's absence created an opening for Tomas Vokoun who, appearing in his 700th NHL game, made 34 saves en route to his 300th victory.
"I'm pretty proud of that," Vokoun said.
The victory also was Bylsma's 200th, as he reached that milestone faster than any coach in NHL history. The Ottawa game was Bylsma's 316th behind the bench; the previous record-holder, Bruce Boudreau, needed 326.
"When you look at career numbers for coaches, I'm not sure where 200 ranks," he said. "It's still a long way to go, when it comes to some of the other good coaches. But certainly, I'm happy to have gotten it. I got the puck."
There are not, it should be noted, a lot of good feelings between the Penguins and Senators these days.
Most of the talk before the game centered on whether Ottawa would seek retribution against Penguins left winger Matt Cooke, who had been accused by some in the Senators organization -- including owner Eugene Melnyk -- of intentionally stepping on the leg of outstanding defenseman Erik Karlsson earlier this season, slicing his Achilles tendon.
Although the crowd was fairly hostile toward Cooke and the Senators took a few runs at him, there were no major incidents.
"We won," Cooke said. "That was the most important thing. That was the goal from the outset."
Penguins defenseman Simon Despres received the most controversial hit of the game.
Senators tough guy Chris Neil laid him out behind the Penguins net midway through the second period. There was no consensus on whether Neil dropped Despres with a forearm to the head; not surprisingly, reaction broke down along strict party lines.
Despres said Neil's initial contact had been with his head -- "My helmet came off, so I guess something hit my head," he said -- but he did not miss any playing time.
He also verified that he had his head down when Neil made contact.
Bylsma, meanwhile, said he thought it was clear that Neil had delivered the blow to Despres' head.
"I don't think you need to see the hit on a replay to see what happened," he said. "I'm sure it will be looked at [by the league office] in both real time and slow time."
Jeffrey put the Penguins in front to stay at 6:15 of the opening period, and Jarome Iginla made it 2-0 at 10:28 by converting a Brenden Morrow set-up.
Patrick Wiercioch pulled Ottawa within one on a power play at 7:18 of the third, but Tyler Kennedy scored on a Cooke feed at 17:26 to give the Penguins (35-10) their seventh victory in a row.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Vokoun said. "Everybody played hard. We played for each other, and it showed on the scoreboard."
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published April 23, 2013 4:00 AM