JENKINS TWP. — Dustin Jeffrey knew he was living a dream during his month-long stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Still, he tried to put his NHL experience in perspective.
“I just tried to play in the moment and not think about it too much,” Jeffrey said after Thursday’s practice at the Ice Box.
No matter how hard he tried, however, there were times when Jeffrey – who appeared in 30 AHL games as a rookie before being called up on Dec. 26 – had to pinch himself.
It happened when he traveled to Boston on Jan. 1 to face the Bruins, one of the “Original Six” NHL franchises.
And it happened again when Jeffrey, 20, scored his first NHL goal that same night.
Jeffrey can recall every detail of the play, up to a certain point.
“I picked up a rebound coming around the net and passed it out to the point. (Alex) Goligoski passed it back to me when I was at the top of the faceoff circle,” he said. “I turned and fired.”
But after that the details were lost in the excitement.
“I didn’t see it go in, I just saw the guys celebrating,” Jeffrey said. “It was a blur after that.”
Jeffrey was re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday after playing in 14 games with Pittsburgh. He had a goal and two assists, along with a plus-4 rating while logging a respectable 10:47 of ice time per game.
He said coming back to Wilkes-Barre wasn’t a surprise because the NHL will take a break for this weekend’s All-Star game. But what Jeffrey doesn’t know is how long he’ll be here, or anyone else for that matter.
“If I play well this weekend then something could happen,” he said. “But everyone is playing well here so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of them go up as well.”
In the meantime, Jeffrey, who has 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 30 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season, will apply his NHL experience to the AHL rinks and work hard to get back.
“It’s every kid’s dream (to play in the NHL) and I was lucky enough to stick up there for a few weeks,” Jeffrey said. “I got a taste of it and now I know what it takes. It’s something I want to build on.”
Jeffrey will start building tonight when the Penguins travel to Hershey to take on the first-place Bears. The Penguins trail the Bears by nine points in the East Division standings.
Penguins at Bears
7 p.m. today
Giant Center in Hershey
Radio: WDMT (102.3 FM)