Injury aside, Jeffrey has made the most out of his most recent call-up
Dustin Jeffrey is the leading scorer at Wilkes-Barre with 47 points despite numerous call-ups to the Penguins.
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Six times this season, Dustin Jeffrey has been summoned by the Penguins from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
His previous stays have been as little as 24 hours, as long as a week, and -- when he actually got into games -- had him bouncing around the lineup like a waiter with a coffee pot.
This time was different.
"It's a huge opportunity," Jeffrey said last week.
Or it was a huge opportunity. And might be again.
Jeffrey, who turns 23 later this month, has been with the Penguins all month but became one of the latest victims of an injury epidemic among forwards. He was put on injured reserve after taking a header into the net over Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick in Thursday's 2-1 overtime win.
- Game: Penguins vs. Colorado Avalanche.
- When: 9 p.m. Wednesday.
- Where: Pepsi Center, Denver.
- TV: FSN Pittsburgh.
He had an assist in that game, giving him four goals, seven points in 13 NHL games this season.
Jeffrey apparently has a problem with a hip or upper leg. The Penguins have not updated his status, but initial indications were that it was not a long-term issue. Because of his injured reserve status, he is obligated to miss Wednesday's game at Colorado before he can be activated.
The Penguins then don't play until Sunday at Chicago. Winger Matt Cooke is eligible to return from a four-game suspension for the game against the Blackhawks, but Jeffrey has a good chance to return to the lineup when he is ready.
That's because Jeffrey is a center, the position hit the hardest by injury. Sidney Crosby (concussion) is out indefinitely, Evgeni Malkin (knee) is out for the season and Mark Letestu (knee) is out for at least a few more weeks.
In his most recent stretch before he got hurt, Jeffrey held the top-line spot between wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, at least until Kunitz got hurt. That center spot had been manned by Letestu, who was filling in for Crosby.
"Who wants to play with us right now?" Dupuis cracked somewhat prophetically hours before Kunitz was a late scratch last Tuesday against Columbus for an unspecified injury and a couple of days before Jeffrey got hurt.
Dupuis has seen enough of Jeffrey, who has 10 points in 28 NHL games, to know what the 6-foot-1, 205-pound skilled player offers.
"He can play both sides of the ice," Dupuis said. "He's good in his own zone. He can score goals. He can play on the power play. He can play on the [penalty kill]. He brings a lot to a team.
"He's blossomed the last couple of years in the minors in a big role. He comes up and he's been doing a really good job."
Jeffrey was playing on the top power-play unit before he got hurt. He has been a top penalty-killer in the minor leagues. There wasn't much of a spot with the Penguins for him to play short-handed, but only because the penalty killers have avoided the injury bug and rank first in the NHL.
"Dustin has gotten a unique opportunity," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's played pretty much in every position that he could play in.
"He's been all up and down the lineup playing against different types of players and situations. You don't get that kind of opportunity very often as a call-up guy. In large part, he's made the most of it."
Until he got hurt, anyway.
Jeffrey, a Penguins sixth-round pick in the 2007 NHL draft, has worked his way up through the ranks, from the Lambton Junior Sting to the Mississauga Icehounds to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in Ontario before turning pro.
After he was drafted, he attended countless development and rookie camps and tournaments and advanced with Wilkes-Barre to the point this season where he remains that team's leading scorer, with 47 points, including 18 goals, in 40 games despite spending chunks of time in the NHL.
Jeffrey has shown no letdown when his stints in the NHL this season ended. In the five games immediately after he was returned to Wilkes-Barre, Jeffrey piled up four goals (two of them short-handed) and five assists.
He has also seemed to make seamless transitions when he has been recalled and as his role with the Penguins changed and increased.
He averaged between 6 and 13 minutes of ice time his first seven games with the Penguins, then with injuries mounting, that got elevated to between 14 and 20 minutes a game before Thursday when he left early because of the injury.
NOTE -- Penguins prospect goaltender Brad Thiessen was named AHL player of the week after stopping 99 of 102 shots and going 4-1 in five games for Wilkes-Barre. ... The Penguins had a day off Monday.
First Published February 15, 2011 12:00 am